Foggy Bottom residents ended an at times animated neighborhood meeting in a standstill when they were unable to come to a consensus to change their official opposition to the GW’s Health and Wellness Center.
A majority of Advisory Neighborhood Commission members seemed to support opening gym membership to Foggy Bottom residents, but they split on the issue of supporting later hours. The center currently closes at 10 p.m. due to zoning restrictions.
ANC commissioner and GW graduate student Jeff Marootian called the meeting a “step forward” toward negotiations with the University. The ANC decided to send a letter to GW asking to start negotiations to allow neighborhood residents use of the building.
The ANC-2A, a board of elected members that represent the Foggy Bottom neighborhood in District affairs, had opposed construction of the Wellness Center in the past because of traffic and noise concerns. The facility is currently closed to neighborhood residents, GW alumni and guests of students and faculty members because of a D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment ruling.
Commissioner Dorothy Miller, one of the most vocal opponents of the Wellness Center, said she is against a resolution to change the ANC’s position “because it supports GW in a financial way, which they don’t need.”
She later lambasted ANC commissioner Don Morency, yelling at him to “shut up” so the group could vote on an amendment to the resolution.
“He never shuts up,” she said loudly over the din.
Marootian, who proposed the resolution supporting opening the facility to neighborhood residents and keeping it open to midnight, attempted to moderate the discussion, which at times became bogged down with issues that he did not think were relevant.
Although the ANC ultimately decided not to vote on the measure, it did amend it, removing sections that support allowing local alumni and University guests membership to the Wellness Center. The resolution was then tabled after observers mentioned that the resolution might open a “Pandora’s box.”
Observers said they thought a resolution might allow the University to return to court and possibly push for even fewer restrictions.
After the meeting, Marootian said he was pleased.
“What I’ve wanted to see from the start was a dialogue on the issue,” Marootian said.
University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said the University will definitely appeal the BZA’s ruling as early as this spring. He said GW will push for longer hours and broader membership and any ANC decision to relax restrictions on operating times would be “a step in the right direction.”