GW’s long and storied zoning laws history took another turn Friday, when Judge Louis Oberdorfer eased the Board of Zoning Adjustment requirement that GW house 70 percent of its undergraduates by August. Oberdorfer’s ruling is a victory for common sense, giving the University the flexibility it needs to eventually meet the requirement.
The University has taken the commendable stance of accepting a requirement to house 70 percent of residents on campus. But the difficulty arose when the neighborhood and the University could not agree on a time table or what should count toward that requirement.
Oberdorfer’s decision permits the Hall on Virginia Avenue, the Aston, City Hall and Pennsylvania House to count toward the 70 percent figure that the University must meet after the current campus plan expires in 2009. While the decision temporarily takes GW off the hook, the University should be a good neighbor by housing as many students on campus as possible without more purchases. This can be done most quickly by constructing the planned “Super Dorm” on 23rd Street and controlling admissions.
Oberdorfer struck down a BZA claim that the four off-campus properties could not count toward the housing requirement because of “student rowdiness.” Oberdorfer rightfully threw that erroneous claim out, citing a lack of evidence.
Now that the off-campus/on-campus argument over residence halls has been decided in court, GW and the Advisory Neighborhood Commission should move on to more important matters, such as opening the Health and Wellness Center to residents with longer hours and patching up community relations that have been trampled through the years of fighting. Neighbors should recognize that GW students will always live among them, and GW should recognize that it could do much more to reach out to the community.
Our suggestion to help alleviate the heated debate is nothing new or groundbreaking. A simple dialogue between neighborhood groups and University officials is an important first step in putting a stop to the incessant fighting in and out of courts. Both sides have a vision of what Foggy Bottom could be; it would be helpful if both sides could find a way to conjoin their differing visions into a cohesive one that benefits the plurality of the Foggy Bottom community.