BZA finalizes housing requirement

City zoning officials last month finalized the language of a Dec. 11
order that requires GW to house 70 percent of its undergraduates on campus
and outside Foggy Bottom by next fall.

University lawyers have said since the order was drafted in October that GW is 1,400 beds short of meeting the goal and will be unable to comply by the September deadline. That means construction will be restricted for any building that does not include at least 50 percent residential use.

GW currently houses about 50 percent of students within campus boundaries

“It’s an extremely harsh order, and it’s difficult to see how exactly we will come up with so many beds in such a short period of time,” GW Senior Counsel Charles Barber said.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment issued its final order Dec. 21. It will not allow GW to include residence halls outside official campus boundaries as “on campus.” This excludes Aston Hall, the Hall on Virginia Avenue, City Hall and the Pennsylvania House.

If GW does not comply, the University can only apply to build facilities that are at least half residential and will risk having other approved projects halted. The order gives the BZA authority to revoke any already-approved building permit, like the new School of Business and Public Management, which will be attached to Funger Hall, if GW does not make the deadline.

The University has until September 2006 to house 70 percent of undergraduates on campus without including rooms outside Foggy Bottom inhabited by students. A new “super dorm” on 23rd Street is scheduled to be complete by then, which will add 710 beds to GW’s housing inventory.

The board announced a few minor changes to the order, including allowing the University to seek an extension on the 2006 deadline if there are delays because of construction delays, public hearings, government agencies or the duration of a third party appeal, said Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chair Elizabeth Elliott.

Once GW meets the 70 percent requirement, the order mandates that the University add one bed for every student beyond the previous year’s enrollment.

Barber said the University is “moving aggressively” to build more residence halls on campus, but the buildings will not be ready for at least two or three years.

Barber said the University is waiting to see the written order to “study (the University’s) legal options.”

The Zoning Commission also will decide Thursday whether to approve the building permit for the 193-bed Elliott School complex. Residents have opposed the current permit because it was issued to the prior owner of the property. GW previously did not follow requirements in the permit.

If the permit is approved, the commission will allow the currently off-campus building to be considered within the campus boundaries.

Barber said GW’s lawsuit against the Campus Plan is on hold, pending the final version of the order. In the suit, GW opposes the condition that requires more campus housing.

Barber said the presiding judge, Louis F. Oberdorfer, told the University to consult him once the order is released and “give a status report” so GW can decide whether or not to continue legal action.

“There is no way we can build enough beds to meet that requirement. The concept is that we’ll go out and buy or lease outside of Foggy Bottom-West End area, but how realistic is that?” Barber said. “After 2006, we wouldn’t even be able to count those. It’s a very difficult order.”

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