Frustration Persists in Wake of Zoning Delay
Published: Monday, February 13, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 03:02
After the D.C. Zoning Commission announced a third deferral of its ruling on the university's 2010 Campus Plan Thursday, representatives of both the neighborhood and university voiced exasperation at the continuing delays.
Thursday's hearing, the sixth before the Zoning Commission, was intended to be the last in what has been a long and contentious process.
Chris Clements, president of the Burleith Citizens Association, said that his constituents were displeased that no conclusion was reached last week, and are eager for solutions to the issues that have divided local residents and the university in recent months.
"We are disappointed that a decision wasn't made, honestly," Clements said. "It's been going on for quite some time, and I think everyone was looking for some finality."
Clements added that, regardless of the commission's final decision, the delay has simply prolonged the longstanding conflict between the university and its neighbors.
"The main effect is that it keeps the issue going. … It's one of those things where everyone is looking forward to a decision one way or the other," Clements said.
Georgetown University Student Association Vice President Greg Laverriere (COL '12) expressed similar frustration, but stressed that the commission should take the necessary time to make a balanced decision.
"While I was disappointed that the Zoning Commission decided to delay their decision, I can understand it if the commissioners felt they did not have information to make a reasonable and informed decision," Laverriere said.
The decision to put off a final ruling on the plan leaves several key issues up in the air, most significantly the question of how many students will be allowed to live off campus in the coming years.
A report released by Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E in November cited off-campus student housing as the key problem associated with the university's plan.
"The overwhelming objectionable impact … is that it would keep in place a very large number of off-campus transient student group houses and all the problems they bring," the report said.
The ANC, the D.C. Office of Planning and several neighborhood organizations have all called on the Zoning Commission to require Georgetown to house 100 percent of students on campus.
In January, the university officially announced that it would convert the Leavey Hotel into a dorm by 2014, adding an extra 250 on-campus beds.
But 1,199 students were living off campus as of 2010, according to a supplementary filing Georgetown submitted to the Zoning Commission in January. It is not clear where these students would be housed if the commission did choose to ban students from living off campus.
Despite the uncertainty about housing, many of Georgetown's long-term goals will not be jeopardized by the delay, according to university spokeswoman Stacy Kerr.
Several of the construction projects included in the plan are extensions or continuations of schemes that had already been approved as part of the 2000 Campus Plan. Such projects include the construction of the Intercollegiate Athletic Center and the renovation of Reiss Science building. Plans for the athletic facility are still under review by the Old Georgetown Board, but construction of the center does not depend on the Zoning Commission's ruling.
Projects that were newly introduced in the 2010 plan, including improvements to the hospital and a potential bridge between Reiss and the soon-to-be-completed Regents Hall, will still be contingent on approval from the Zoning Commission.
The delay also postpones the point at which the university will have to honor its agreements to cap student enrollment through 2020.
As part of its initial filing, Georgetown agreed to cap undergraduate admissions rates at current levels and cap the increase in graduate enrollment at 967 students if the Campus Plan is accepted.
"Our voluntary commitment to these maximum enrollment levels is contingent on the approval of the Campus Plan package as we've proposed [it]," Kerr said.
She added that despite the continuing delays to the Campus Plan, the university will continue the good faith measures it began during the process, such as a twice-daily trash collection program instituted last fall.
Laverriere said he supports the university's proactive approach.
"The university is committed to showing the District of Columbia that Georgetown can coexist with the surrounding community," he said. "If that means implementing some programs ahead of the campus plan approval, so be it."