GW looks to re-zone Health and Wellness Center

The University has not yet acted on a promise to appeal a zoning decision that restricts the new Health and Wellness Center from staying open past 10 p.m. and allowing non-GW users in the new building, campus officials said.

University officials said last spring the property’s zoning classification prohibits GW from allowing people who are not students or staff to use the facility and keeping the building open past 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 p.m. Sundays.

“It’s something we’d like to work out later on,” said Tony Vecchione, assistant director of athletics and facilities, in an April 12 Hatchet article.

Now, “We are considering going back to the (D.C.) Zoning Commission with a request to amend the conditions on the building so we can change hours and let others use the facilities,” University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said.

Anthropology professor Richard Grinker said his family should be able to use the Health and Wellness Center. Grinker said he sent a letter complaining to University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.

“It was upsetting to me there was a family locker room and my wife or daughters could not use the building,” Grinker said.

Grinker said he knew of no other college or university that has similar types of conditions imposed on its buildings.

“They prohibit all non-GWorld card holders, even if they are willing to pay a membership fee,” he said.

Barber said GW has heard “many expressions of concern from family members of University personnel, alumni and neighbors who want to use the building.”

“Unfortunately, we have to say no at this time, but we hope for that to change in the near future,” Barber said.

Vice President for Student and Academic Support Services Robert Chernak said the University hopes to repeal the restrictions that limit eligible users and operating hours for the building.

“Some faculty have written inquiring why their spouses and family cannot use the building,” Chernak said.

Barber said “it’s a shame” that GW families, alumni and surrounding community cannot use the building.

“We were planning on offering some nearby community organizations such as St. Mary’s Church (at 728 23rd St.) use of the building, and for now that’s not possible,” Barber said.

If the D.C. Zoning Commission grants the changes, Barber said there would be different categories of membership to include other people in the Foggy Bottom community.

“We have not flushed out the details yet, but we hope to consult the zoning commission at some point this fall so we can open the building to more memberships and extend the hours,” Barber said.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment placed conditions on the new building’s use, because local residents expressed concerns about the facility, Barber said. At an Oct. 1, 1997 hearing on zoning restrictions, members of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission cited noise and increased traffic flow among other problems with the facility according to a Jan. 12, 1998 Hatchet article.

“We went through that process in ’98, and because of the concerns raised by the Advisory Neighbor(hood) Commission, the BZA imposed two conditions – one related to who could use it and the other related to operating hours,” Barber said.

Some students said more memberships could overload the already-crowded facility.

“I don’t mind the hours and haven’t been affected by the fact only (students, faculty and staff) can use it, but I think it is far too crowded,” freshman Brett Levanto said. “I have to wait for machines, and if we start letting a large amount of people from outside GW use it, it may get even more crowded.”

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