Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Neighbors’ Opposition Stalls Campus Plan

Georgetown must submit its proposal for the 2010 Campus Plan to the D.C. Zoning Commission by Dec. 31, but as neighborhood talks stall, the future of university expansion remains uncertain.

Over the past year, Georgetown officials have repeatedly stated that they wish to work with the neighborhood in creating an amenable plan, but as of the beginning of November all talks have been put on hold, according to The Georgetown Dish.

All three of the primary neighborhood bodies in the area – the Citizens Association of Georgetown, the Burleith Citizens Association and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E – have suspended discussion of the plan, which the university must develop for city approval every 10 years.

While neighborhood approval is not crucial to the passage of the plan, it could certainly play a large role. The university and the Zoning Commission sparred over the 2000 Campus Plan and in resulting legal battles for three years – following neighborhood protests, the Zoning Commission forbade the university from increasing its enrollment cap. The university successfully sued the commission and the plan was approved without a seal on enrollment in 2003.

This cycle, the protests focus on a rise in graduate and nontraditional undergraduate students, such as commuters, students over 25, and veterans.

The university’s current version of the campus plan does not seek to increase the number of traditional undergraduates, but it will increase the number of nontraditional undergraduates by over 10 percent.

The university also plans to create more space for graduate students, allowing for more enrollment. In a letter to the neighborhood on July 6, Spiros Dimolitsas, senior vicepresident and CEO of the university, said that the majority of the new students will be enrolled in the School of Continuing Studies. Dimolitsas added in his letter that previous growth in the number of graduate students has not led to housing problems. Lenore Rubino, president of the Burleith Citizens Association, challenged that assertion.

“If the university really wanted to work with the community, to roll up their sleeves, they could have,” Rubino said in an interview with THE HOYA. Rubino said that student housing could be provided in satellite campuses throughout the D.C. metropolitan area, such as in Arlington.

A main point of contention has been a proposal for a 120-bed dormitory for graduate students in the center of the block that holds the restaurant 1789.

“We want them to build more housing on campus, but they want to build on the 1789 block, which the neighborhood does not want to build up,” Rubino said. “The university has the financial ability to [build new student residences], because they can get money through the bond market, as they’ve been doing for the Science Center.”

With residents gearing up to combat the campus plan in front of the Zoning Commission, Georgetown’s administration is attempting to finalize the plan.

“We’ve had conversations with the community for the past two years about our campus plan in an effort to understand and address issues important to our neighbors as we develop a plan that meets the university’s strategic needs for the next 10 years,” wrote university spokeswoman Julie Bataille in an email. “We are still working to finalize our plan and expect to file it with the city by the end of the year.”

According to Rubino, however, negotiations have not proceeded as planned.

“We’ll have to wait and see. I think we have a very strong case. We’ve proven that a number of organizations are behind us. The university needs to look at that, and negotiate in good faith,” Rubino said.

Bataille and the university’s primary facilitator for the campus plan, Vice President for Student Affairs Todd Olson, were unavailable for comment.”

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