Campus Plan Processes: A Battle or a Breeze
Published: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Updated: Friday, February 24, 2012 04:02
While Georgetown has been entangled in debates over its campus plan since December 2010, other D.C. universities have also spent months or years trying to gain approval for their own campus plans.
D.C. municipal regulations require universities to submit comprehensive plans for their expansion to the Zoning Commission at regular intervals.
The duration and scope of the plans differ widely — Georgetown's plan must be renewed every decade while the George Washington University's current plan will last 20 years — as do universities' interactions with community members and the Zoning Commission.
At a Feb. 9 hearing, the Zoning Commission voted to push back its ruling on Georgetown's 2010 Campus Plan, the third time it has delayed the decision.
By contrast, The George Washington University's 2007 Foggy Bottom Campus Plan, which outlines development objectives for 16 sites on the school's main campus over the course of the next 20 years, was approved by the commission the same year it was proposed.
The Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A, which includes GWU's Foggy Bottom campus, initially opposed the plan because of potentially undesirable impacts on quality of life in the surrounding community — reasons similar to those cited by ANC 2E in its opposition of Georgetown's plan.
In its ruling on GWU's plan, the D.C. Zoning Commission required the university to maintain the same growth caps that had been imposed in its previous campus plan.
John Richardson, current president of the GWU Student Association, acknowledged that the approval of the 2007 Foggy Bottom Campus Plan required some concessions by the university. But he said the plan passed relatively quickly because of the university's strong relationship with the surrounding neighborhood.
"[Getting the 2007 Campus Plan approved] went pretty well, but as I know, it takes a little bit of back and forth. The university has to make concessions," Richardson said. "By and large, GWU has a pretty good relationship with our neighbors, and that is in large part due to the amount of energy and time that our external relations and government relations staff puts into communicating and being visible to the community."
American University has faced more difficulty in getting its 2011 Campus Plan approved. As with the Georgetown Campus Plan, the Zoning Commission has repeatedly delayed its ruling on the AU plan, which seeks to build new residence halls and expand existing campus buildings.
At a Feb. 16 hearing, zoning commissioners moved to postpone their ruling on the AU plan until early March. American has been seeking approval for its Campus Plan since it was first filed in March 2011.
The Catholic University of America submitted its 2012 Master Plan to the Zoning Commission this past December and hopes for the local ANC's approval before the Zoning Commission vote. According to CUA Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Victor Nakas, it is likely that the ANC will support the plan.
"We have been collaborating very closely with the local ANCs for a number of months on the Master Plan," Nakas wrote in an email. "Their input has been very important to us, and we are optimistic that they will support the plan."
This expectation poses a stark contrast to the opposition Georgetown has faced from its neighborhood commission. This January, six of the seven ANC 2E commissioners came out in opposition of the plan. Jake Sticka (COL '13), the representative for the district containing Georgetown's main campus, cast the sole vote in favor.
According to Jill Sankey, associate director of media relations at GWU, the success of GWU's campus plans is a result of extensive planning and consideration of the university's role in the surrounding neighborhood.
According to Richardson, GWU initiatives to build relations with neighbors also helped in the approval process.
"That has definitely paid dividends," he said.
Georgetown has made similar attempts to both engage and assuage neighbors, such as instituting a twice-daily trash removal program and an M Street shuttle and inviting neighbors to student arts performances.
Howard University faced minimal opposition in seeking approval of its 2011 Campus Plan, with members of the LeDroit Park Civic Association voting 11-2 in support of the proposal. By comparison, both the Burleith Citizens Association and the Citizens Association of Georgetown came out strongly against GU's 2010 Campus Plan when it was released last year.
Comparing the smooth approval of GWU's campus plans with the more dramatic process that Georgetown has experienced, Richardson said that the opposition Georgetown has faced may stem from differences in the makeup of their respective surrounding areas.
"At Georgetown, the area is more residential and butts up right against the neighborhood. Here we have the IMF-World Bank complex, the Department of State, Department of Navy and other large governmental buildings in the area. There is a community of residents [in Foggy Bottom] but certainly fewer individual houses," he said.
Hoya Staff Writer Braden McDonald contributed to this report.