Campus Plan Battle Continues
Published: Friday, April 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 26, 2012 20:04
Following a year of rocky relations between the university and its neighbors, recent developments in the debates surrounding the 2010 Campus Plan suggest that a final compromise may be on the horizon.
After six inconclusive D.C. Zoning Commission hearings since the campus plan was filed in December 2010, many of the proposal’s details remain contested, while the neighborhood position has been emboldened by endorsements from Mayor Vincent Gray in October and Councilmember At-Large Phil Mendelson in September. The opposing parties have resorted to private negotiations to arrive at a compromise.
“My hope is that everybody can sit down at a table and work something out that’s agreeable to everybody,” Chris Clements, president of the Burleith Citizens Association, said. “As we come back to the negotiation table … maybe we can find that common ground.”
Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E commissioner Tom Birch agreed that the shift to private negotiations represents a step in the right direction.
“I think it’s been a difficult process, and I have to say I’m pleased that there is this revisiting of the plan that’s happening now,” Birch said.
The issue of off-campus student housing is chief among the disputes that have yet to be resolved. The BCA, the Citizens Association of Georgetown and ANC 2E all continue to demand that the university provide housing for all of its undergraduates.
But Clements acknowledged that the university has compromised on some controversial measures. In a supplementary filing on the campus plan submitted last March, Georgetown offered to impose a voluntary enrollment cap of 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students and to house 250 additional student beds on campus by 2016. In addition, the Georgetown University Transportation Shuttle bus loop road was relocated from a route parallel to Glover-Archbold Park to an area outside of Harbin Hall.
Clements said that the changes give him hope that a satisfactory middle ground may be reachable.
“I think we’ve all come a long way. All you have to do is line up what Georgetown … proposed in its [original version of the campus plan]. If you were to match that up with what they offered to the D.C. Zoning Commission [at the most recent hearing], it’s not the same plan,” he said.
Although the university has implemented several measures to respond to neighborhood concerns about student misconduct, including a weekend shuttle to M Street, twice-daily trash collection at area homes and heightened patrols by the Metropolitan Police Department, their effectiveness remains in dispute.
At the Zoning Commission’s sixth hearing on the campus plan Feb. 9, Commission Chairman Anthony Hood was reluctant to factor the initiatives into a final ruling.
“We don’t know if they work because they were just instituted. We don’t have a track record,” he said. “The test of time has not had time to run its course.”
However, according to Jake Sticka (COL ’13), who represents Georgetown’s single-member district on ANC 2E, the university’s willingness to implement such measures demonstrates its desire to cooperate.
“[We’ve] seen in the last year a number of compromises made in response to concerns raised by the community. I think that’s the philosophy of the university — to do everything that it can and work in good faith with the community,” he said. “The initiatives that have been going on more recently have been fairly successful.”
Depending on the duration of the university’s talks with neighbors, the negotiations may also be affected by changes in Georgetown’s representation on ANC 2E.
During the redistricting process that occurred last fall, D.C. added one single-member district to ANC 2E. The new district, SMD 2E08, encompasses Henle Village, Copley Hall and Nevils Hall and will almost certainly be represented by a Georgetown student. In addition, student candidates have the potential to contest seats in three other SMDs that encompass off-campus areas occupied by large numbers of students.
“It’s all up to who’s running and who gets elected,” Birch said.
Whether or not a third student-occupied seat is possible, Birch added that the addition of at least one student representative on the ANC is likely to change the dynamic of the commission.
“There were two students 10 years ago, and I thought it was a very successful ANC,” he said. “So much depends on the ability of any of the commissioners to understand the issues and be responsive to their constituents,and then look for ways to be productive as a total commission. I expect that same kind of strong voice for the university.”
The reconfiguration, which was hotly debated during the summer of 2011 because it made it more difficult for students to gain a third seat on the commission, was confirmed in a D.C. Council ruling in December.
While Sticka had initially supported an alternative plan drawn by John Flanagan (SFS ’14), which would have split a third SMD evenly between Georgetown students and permanent residents and made the election of a third student to the commission more likely, he expressed satisfaction with the approved reconfiguration.
“I think that we made some really significant gains in redistricting,” Sticka said. “I think given the circumstances we’re working with this year, being able to say with confidence that we’re going to have two students on the ANC is an accomplishment.”