MVC, neighbors reach accord on campus plan

The Board of Zoning Adjustment unanimously approved the Mount Vernon College campus plan Dec. 15 following an agreement between the Foxhall/Palisades neighborhoods and GW.

In early December, GW and the neighborhood reached an agreement with the assistance of a mediator. Mount Vernon Executive Dean Grae Baxter said dialogue always existed between the Palisades neighborhood and GW, but there was never closure and a resolution to the groups’ differences. D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and City Planning Director Andrew Altman suggested the two sides use mediation, Baxter said.

Along with Mediator Robert Fisher, Baxter said the group decreased its size to a working group with the absence of lawyers.

Mediation worked out for us because it was a complex subject with so many issues, said Peggy Pagano, chairwoman of the Neighborhood Alliance, which represents the Palisades community.

Pagano said one of the issues resolved was traffic on W Street. She said the neighborhood was able to get a large amount of traffic moved from W Street to Whitehaven Parkway, which she said is no longer a residential street.

Baxter said the W Street entrance still will be a visitor’s entrance. She said the agreement also stipulates manageable noise restrictions. According to a University press release, the University agreed to height restrictions of 40 feet or three stories.

Pagano said the neighborhood agreed to restrictions on the number of students who will reside on campus and who will be commuting to Mount Vernon. She said the agreement includes increased buffers separating Mount Vernon from its surrounding neighbors, redesigned landscape plans and limits for athletic field use. Pagano said the neighborhood originally wanted to move all traffic from W Street and also wanted more preservation of green space.

No agreement is perfect, Pagano said. I think people felt it was preferable to work out an agreement that both sides could live with.

Baxter said GW will meet with Mount Vernon neighbors on a quarterly basis. Phase one of the construction will begin soon and will include doubling the amount of tennis courts, and the creation of NCAA-regulation softball and lacrosse/soccer fields, which will be completed by the fall of 2001. An increase in the amount of beds at Mount Vernon is also part of phase one.

Baxter said mediation quickened the pace of the agreement process.

We came to a better understanding of each other, she said.

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