BZA finalizes campus plan

The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment finalized GW’s campus plan March 29 that included restrictions GW lawyers called “heavy-handed.”

The board already outlined most of the final conditions in discussions leading up to Feb. 13, its last public hearing on the plan. The campus plan is a statement of the University’s property boundaries and uses until 2009.

GW has 30 days to appeal the decision, University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said.

“We’re reviewing this order with our counsel and trying to analyze what the impacts would be,” he said. “It already seems very draconian and heavy-handed.”

Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood commissioner and GW senior Jeff Marootian said an enrollment cap was one of the most contentious restrictions outlined in this year’s plan.

Under the plan, GW’s full-time Foggy Bottom campus undergraduate enrollment will be capped at 7,380 – the number of undergraduates enrolled when the board voted to approve the plan in February.

The cap will remain in place until GW houses 70 percent of the undergraduate population on campus, and the University cannot apply for construction project permits during this time, unless the proposed buildings contain at least 50 percent residential space.

“Certainly it seems as though the community is satisfied with the idea of an enrollment cap,” Marootian said. “The enrollment cap really inhibits (the University’s) ability to accept students.”

Foggy Bottom Association President Michael Thomas said the BZA made the right decision to hold GW accountable for its increasingly larger enrollment.

“I think it’s a good sound decision,” he said. “I think it reflects what the record showed as we testified and presented and what the Office of Planning presented. It’s saying to the University ‘you can have 20,000 students, you just need to take care of them.’”

Barber said the BZA picked an “arbitrary” Feb. 13 date to freeze the enrollment, especially since the board did not know the actual full-time undergraduate population number at that time.

The University had also begun sending admission letters for next year
when the decision was handed down, Barber said.

“It really reflects no understanding of how admission works in higher education,” Barber said. “(The BZA has) been pretty one-sided.”

Thomas said he believes D.C. will not be able to enforce the plan. He said the District’s zoning code mandates a financial penalty for violating BZA orders.

“If the fine or penalty is pocket change and if the University has any plans to start a construction project that isn’t residential, the University may just say ‘gee, so what,’” he said.

GW expanded outside boundaries set in the 1985-2000 campus plan, building three residence halls – Aston Hall at 1129 New Hampshire Ave., Riverside Towers at 2201 Virginia Ave. and the Hall on Virginia Avenue at 2601 Virginia Avenue – and the new Elliot School of International Affairs site under construction at 1957 E St.

Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood A2 commissioner Maria Tyler said she is concerned GW will continue buy properties intended for student use that are not included in the campus plan.

“The University went ahead and just bought up the properties and put students in there, it went against the order and there was no enforcement,” she said. “It was the Wild West in D.C.”

The D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment finalized GW’s campus plan Thursday, including restrictions GW lawyers called “heavy-handed.”

The board already outlined most of the final conditions in discussions leading up to Feb. 13, its last public hearing on the plan. The campus plan is a statement of the University’s property boundaries and uses until 2009.

GW has 30 days to appeal the decision, University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said.

“We’re reviewing this order with our counsel and trying to analyze what the impacts would be,” he said. “It already seems very draconian and heavy-handed.”

Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood commissioner and GW senior Jeff Marootian said an enrollment cap was one of the most contentious restrictions outlined in this year’s plan.

Under the plan, GW’s full-time Foggy Bottom campus undergraduate enrollment will be capped at 7,380 – the number of undergraduates enrolled when the board voted to approve the plan in February.

The cap will remain in place until GW houses 70 percent of the undergraduate population on campus, and the University cannot apply for construction project permits during this time, unless the proposed buildings contain at least 50 percent residential space.

“Certainly it seems as though the community is satisfied with the idea of an enrollment cap,” Marootian said. “The enrollment cap really inhibits (the University’s) ability to accept students.”

Foggy Bottom Association President Michael Thomas said the BZA made the right decision to hold GW accountable for its increasingly larger enrollment.

“I think it’s a good sound decision,” he said. “I think it reflects what the record showed as we testified and presented and what the Office of Planning presented. It’s saying to the University ‘you can have 20,000 students, you just need to take care of them.’”

Barber said the BZA picked an “arbitrary” Feb. 13 date to freeze the enrollment, especially since the board did not know the actual full-time undergraduate population number at that time.

The University had also begun sending admission letters for next year
when the decision was handed down, Barber said.

“It really reflects no understanding of how admission works in higher education,” Barber said. “(The BZA has) been pretty one-sided.”

Thomas said he believes D.C. will not be able to enforce the plan. He said the District’s zoning code mandates a financial penalty for violating BZA orders.

“If the fine or penalty is pocket change and if the University has any plans to start a construction project that isn’t residential, the University may just say ‘gee, so what,’” he said.

GW expanded outside boundaries set in the 1985-2000 campus plan, building three residence halls – Aston Hall at 1129 New Hampshire Ave., Riverside Towers at 2201 Virginia Ave. and the Hall on Virginia Avenue at 2601 Virginia Avenue – and the new Elliot School of International Affairs site under construction at 1957 E St.

Foggy Bottom Advisory Neighborhood A2 commissioner Maria Tyler said she is concerned GW will continue buy properties intended for student use that are not included in the campus plan.

“The University went ahead and just bought up the properties and put students in there, it went against the order and there was no enforcement,” she said. “It was the Wild West in D.C.”

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