Members of local agencies have gone to the Zoning Commission with claims that the construction of the Performing Arts Center is not in accordance with Board of Zoning conditions. They are arguing that construction cannot continue because Georgetown has not followed the neighborhood improvement stipulations of the 10-year plan. Previously, the construction of the Performing Arts Center received no objections from neighborhood organizations. The construction project has had the unanimous support of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) throughout its planning.

“A number of Commissioners commented on the positive nature of this project with regards to strengthening campus life at Georgetown – an important goal for our Commission,” ANC Commissioner Justin Wagner (COL ’03) said in a letter. “At no point was there opposition offered from any of the Commissioners or any members of the assembled community.” Wagner is a member of THE HOYA’s editorial board.

Barbara Zartman, representing the Citizens Association of Georgetown, and Bonnie Hardy, representing Burleith Citizens Association, have gone to the Zoning Commission to file in opposition to the project.

Specifically, the organizations claim that the University has violated the enrollment cap, refused to monitor the registration of student vehicles and done little about student misconduct in off-campus housing.

The university has responded in a series of letters to local officials at the Citizens Association of Georgetown and the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

“Georgetown University has taken numerous steps to address the concerns of our neighbors,” Associate Dean of Students Jeanne Lord said in a letter to the CGA. “The establishment of a Community Hotline, a mandatory community education program for students, university representation at local civic groups and the periodic publication of an off campus newsletter: all of these reflect the university’s commitment to educating our students to be responsible members of this community.”

At a recent hearing, the Zoning Commission denied the neighborhood’s request to discuss the compliance and have delayed the hearing until February, instructing the neighborhood to put down its grievances in writing.

In Nov. 2002, Georgetown released the “Review and Certification of Compliance with Campus Plan Conditions” detailing all of the gripes by local agencies and the procedures Georgetown has taken to correct them.

The report began by stating that the university’s campus plan is approved until Dec. 31, 2010, subject to the conditions listed in the Order, and that the university has not requested that the plan be amended in any form.

The report continued to address the neighbor’s first complaint: violating the enrollment cap. Using the enrollment report of Fall 2002 from the registrar’s office, the university responded by showing the total headcount, an undergraduate headcount and then part-time and full-time headcounts. Georgetown argues that there are 100 students above the cap in the fall, and then 100 below in the spring as many students study abroad in the spring.

According to the review, “The cap applies to an average of the Fall and Spring enrollments. The university expects the usual drop between fall and spring, so the final average traditional headcount is fully expected to be well under the cap.”

The statement also outlines the complaint about student behavior off-campus. According to the report, Georgetown has strengthened sanctions for violations of the Code of Conduct and created new groups on campus to work with students in off-campus housing. For example, a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week, hotline has been established for neighbors to report inappropriate behavior. A Hearing Board has even been put together with two student members and two faculty members, reflecting the university’s seriousness in student discipline. The form also dictates the process that is involved when a complaint is received.

Student behavior, although still not perfect, is greatly improved, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. “I believe that great strides have been made to reduce disorderly behavior in the west Georgetown and Burleith neighborhoods,” Lieutenant Brian Bray said in a letter. “Through a cooperative effort involving the police, the community and the Georgetown University, we created an action plan to address disorderly conduct issues.”

Lieutenant Bray also said student behavior has dramatically improved over the past four years.

The report further cites that the university, through the registrar, has informed all undergraduate students living off-campus of their obligations to comply with the Washington, D.C. law regarding car registration. Lord confirmed in her letter to CGA that Georgetown has taken steps to impress upon students their responsibility to register their vehicles.

On Jan. 13, a Zoning and Land Use Specialist from Arnold & Porter drafted a letter to the Zoning Commission restating the complaints of the neighbors and the methods Georgetown has used to alleviate the problems in the 10-year plan. In this letter, the specialist describes how Georgetown required the registration of vehicles and has done as much as possible to teach students about their duties as citizens of the District.

The specialist’s letter also deals with smaller issues such as the neighbors’ gripe that a running track was removed that was to be retained on campus. The university maintains that the running track was not a part of the 10-year plan and that its removal was necessary as its position on the roof of Yates Field House caused water and structural damage.

It is important to note that there is no direct opposition to the Performing Arts Center. The university, the ANC and neighborhood organizations all agree that the Center will provide an on-campus venue for students to write, direct and produce performances that will be offered on-campus as well as to neighboring communities. The neighborhood groups argue that because Georgetown has not fulfilled its promise to deal with local issues as stated in the 10-year plan, the agreement to the construction of the Performing Arts Center no longer applies.

In the meantime, the university seeks to improve conditions and will continue the programs that have been successful in reforming the grievances found on the 10-year plan.

“There is a new awareness among our students of their responsibility to be thoughtful and responsible citizens both within and beyond Healy Gates,” Lord said. “As an educational institution, Georgetown University is committed to educating our students to engage their minds in the classroom and to be good citizens in the community.”

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