Campus plans face scrutiny

The Student Association drafted a resolution in support of GW’s proposed 2000 campus plan after the University addressed the SA’s initial problems with the plan in March, SA Senate Rules Committee Chair J.P. Blackford said.

The campus plan outlines University boundaries and property uses for the next 10 years. When GW first proposed the plan last spring, the SA passed a resolution with reservations and requested that the University amend the plan. The resolution called for more restrictions on GW’s off-campus expansion, incentives for construction of on-campus housing, good neighbor programs and the application of the Code of Student Conduct to students living off campus in the Foggy Bottom area.

There has to be a balance between students and the community, Blackford said.

Blackford said some of the SA’s requested changes centered on concern for the residents of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.

GW’s campus plan has sparked dissension between GW and Foggy Bottom residents. Georgetown University is in the midst of similar disputes among neighborhood residents, students and university officials as it attempts to pass its own 10-year plan.

All universities located in a residential area within the District are required to submit every decade a campus plan for approval of campus modifications by the Board of Zoning Adjustment.

The GW campus plan outlines the boundaries of University property, uses of that property and student housing issues through 2010. The Board of Zoning Adjustment, which gives final approval of campus plans, is scheduled to vote on Georgetown’s plan Nov. 8 and GW’s plan Nov. 15.

The BZA requests input from the D.C. Office of Planning, which advised the BZA to reject GW’s campus plan Sept. 8. The planning office representatives spoke against the plan at a BZA meeting Sept. 26, asking for a restriction on the number of GW students living in the Foggy Bottom community.

The city wants to have great neighborhoods and great universities, said John Fondersmith, community planner for the D.C. Office of Planning. They are both important to the city.

Fondersmith said a major issue concerning both universities is on-campus housing.

The universities are just dependent on students being absorbed in the adjacent neighborhoods, Fondersmith said.

Georgetown addressed this problem by proposing to build a 780-bed residence hall on its campus to pull students out of the neighborhood.

While Georgetown residents welcomed the new housing option, they expressed concern about a proposed enrollment increase of 389 students once the new residence hall is completed in the fall of 2003, Fondersmith said. Both provisions were part of Georgetown’s campus plan, presented to the BZA June 13.

GW Senior Counsel Charles Barber said GW has also responded to residents’ concerns by agreeing to house 70 percent of its undergraduate students on campus and in a housing opportunity area along F Street in five years. He said GW proposes in its plan to add 550 new beds in the housing opportunity area that lies outside the campus boundaries, in addition to 1,350 beds in new residence halls in the next five years.

GW currently houses about 60 percent of full-time undergraduate students on campus, Barber said.

The Foggy Bottom community has been more concerned with GW’s purchase and use of off-campus property than Georgetown residents are about Georgetown’s expansion, Barber said.

Fondersmith said Foggy Bottom residents are worried about students moving into the neighborhood and making apartments and other buildings de facto residence halls.

If this keeps on, there won’t be a Foggy Bottom to speak of in the future, he said. It will get where it’s essentially a university neighborhood.

While the campus plan does not include proposals for buying property outside the University’s boundaries, Barber said the University has agreed to restrict property acquisitions outside GW’s borders to investment purchases.

Another point of contention for both universities is student enrollment. Residents of both communities are asking for caps on undergraduate enrollment, but GW and Georgetown are committed to increasing their undergraduate populations.

GW has not increased its total enrollment cap of 20,000 students, but plans to increase the number of undergraduate students from 7,185 to 8,000 in five years, said Bob Chernak, vice president for Student Academic and Support Service, according to a Sept. 5 Hatchet article.

Georgetown’s plan calls for an increase of 500 in its current enrollment cap of 5,627 full-time undergraduate students over the next 10 years. Georgetown officials said the university houses 78 percent of undergraduate students on campus, the second-highest percentage in the District, and propose to increase the percentage of students living on-campus from 78 percent to 90 percent.

In addition to the influx of students in the Foggy Bottom and Georgetown areas, Fondersmith said residents are concerned with student behavior problems, or town-gown issues. Instances of what Fondersmith called disruptive student behavior and safety issues in both communities have added fire to the debate, he said.

A couple of people put a terrible image on all the students, Blackford said. SA members are discussing forming a committee of Foggy Bottom residents and students appointed by the SA to increase communication and outreach between the two communities.

Barber said residents in the Georgetown community have voiced stronger concerns about student discipline than Foggy Bottom residents.

It is the focal point for (the Georgetown community), he said.

Georgetown proposed in its campus plan a neighborhood outreach program similar to the program between GW’s SA and the Foggy Bottom community. A neighborhood council called the Alliance for Local Living would bring together campus neighbors, landlords, university officials and students to address neighborhood issues.

All universities’ goals are how to advance academically, Fondersmith said. When it reaches some level and becomes an impact on the neighborhood, (expansion) becomes an issue.

The SA will vote ont he resolution to back GW’s campus plan in its next meeting.

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