Chris Clements, who was elected president of the Burleith Citizens Association in November, assumed his position this month. The BCA has been a vocal opponent of Georgetown’s 2010 Campus Plan and has provided testimony at numerous Zoning Commission hearings on the plan. The Hoya sat down with Clements to get his take on the Campus Plan and a range of other neighborhood relations issues.
The Hoya: What, in your opinion, are the biggest issues facing the residents of Burleith?
Chris Clements: Unfortunately, the obvious answer is the Georgetown Campus Plan. Obviously, that’s dominated just about everything over the last year, but my hope is that we’ll get some resolution on that one way or another, and then we can move beyond that and address some newer concerns that might have been marginalized because there was so much focus on the GU Campus Plan. My hope is that we can start and encourage residents and students alike to start formulating some things you want to see your neighborhood association undertake.
The Hoya: How do you and the rest of the BCA leadership feel about Georgetown’s Campus Plan as presented to the Zoning Commission Nov. 17?
Clements: At that point, the die had been cast, and I kind of feel that [after] … we got past the final hearing … there were just some issues I don’t think the administration or the neighborhood associations were going to come to agree on. That’s why you have adjudicating bodies like the Zoning Commission. I think the consensus … was that the actions that the administration took to address some of the concerns didn’t really get at the heart of the matter. On the flip side, I can certainly understand where the Georgetown administration is coming from. … They felt they had already done enough. I can completely understand students’ concerns. I think that there was just one bridge too far that couldn’t be solved between the parties so they threw it to the Zoning Commission.
The Hoya: Which university practices are of particular concern for Burleith?
Clements: If you look at the record since even 1990 … the main concern was the sheer number of students living in the community and … [residents believed] the way to address that was to increase student housing on campus. The administration did come back with a plan using the Leavey Center to increase student beds [but] the consensus opinion was that wasn’t enough and didn’t get to a level that we as a group thought was necessary, and that was the real issue that we just couldn’t resolve.
The Hoya: Many GU students reside in Burleith. Do they play a role in the BCA at all?
Clements: Not that I know of. My experience is limited to about two months. I would certainly invite them to [participate] and I think that that would be a good thing. When I say “resident of Burleith,” I include students. I think it’s wrong to exclude them simply on the basis that they’re students. … I did the Burleith cleanup and there are students out there. That gets to one of the things I hope we can move beyond. I don’t want there to be a relationship between longtime permanent residents and students that’s an animosity type of relationship.
The Hoya: Is there always consensus among BCA leadership on issues relating to Georgetown?
Clements: I’m not sure. I definitely believe a majority of residents agree with the BCA. My impression was that the majority of residents were in favor of the position that the BCA board took. … Looking down the road — I know it’s been a long slog here — my hope is that we can take something positive … as a community because nobody’s going anywhere; 10, 20 years down the line, we’ll all still be here. My hope is we can find something constructive here because … I would like to not see our community and GU go through this again. … Perhaps I’m naive but that’s what I’d like to see.