The university and neighbors will begin private conversations on the 2010 Campus Plan after the D.C. Zoning Commission approved a 60-day extension in the proceedings last week.

At the last hearing on Feb. 9, Zoning Commission Chairman Anthony Hood encouraged Georgetown and its neighbors negotiate an end to the campus plan debate, which began when the university first submitted the plan in Deccember 2010.

The granting of the extension means that parties involved will not have to file further testimony until mid June. Previously, the Zoning Commission was slated to make a decision on the case by early May.

Representatives of the university, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E, the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the Burleith Citizens Association said they welcomed the extended opportunity to communicate outside the public zoning hearings.

“We hope to come to some compromises on what the community needs and what the university needs,” Jennifer Altemus, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, said. “I think both of our sides are very clear on what we’ve been wanting out of the process, and hopefully if we work together we can make that happen.”

But few of the details of the conversations have been ironed out. A schedule for the discussions has not been established, and it is not clear that the issues discussed will be different from those brought up at zoning hearings.

“[Private meetings] haven’t been successful in the past, but we haven’t given up trying,” Altemus said.

The university had been meeting with neighbors to discuss the plan as it was being compiled, but those talks ceased after the plan was filed in 2010. Since then, discussion of the plan has been limited to the zoning hearings and ANC meetings, both of which are public.

The Zoning Commission has held six hearings on the plan, and this latest delay represents the third consecutive postponement of the commission’s final ruling.

According to Director of Media Relations Rachel Pugh, private conversations will provide a better forum for cooperation than the zoning hearings, which often have a combative tone.

“We see [these conversations] as progress toward meeting … Hood’s request to find common ground for all involved,” Pugh said.

Chris Clements, president of the Burleith Citizens Association, echoed Pugh’s expectation.

“My hope is that we can have an honest and good discussion of the issues and come to an agreement that satisfies everyone,” he said.

According to Altemus, the Citizens Association of Georgetown plans to focus on the same concerns that surfaced at previous zoning hearings, namely the impact of the university’s long-term plans on the neighbors’ quality of life.

“[The citizens associations] have proved our case to the Zoning Commission, and the university realizes that they are going to have to mediate some of the adverse impacts that the university has had on the community,” Altemus said. “So hopefully, with both of those things going for us, we will accomplish something.”

Representatives of the university declined to comment on what issues the university hopes to discuss at the meetings. ANC Chair Ron Lewis also declined to comment.

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