Officials set to decide ESIA fate

City zoning officials will rule Monday on an updated list of amenities GW must make to the community to allow the new Elliott School of International Affairs to open in the fall.

GW revised and submitted the amenities late last month to meet Zoning Commission demands that the University be more specific in its proposal. Students are scheduled to occupy the residence portion of the new building, which has about 193 beds, in the fall.

Local advocacy groups the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and West End Citizens Association both responded to the new package last week with reports citing its flaws. Although both groups have experienced internal dissent over the issues, WECA is looking for wording changes while the ANC demands the project be halted.

The ANC maintained previous opinions and filed a package last week arguing against the building and calling the proposed amenities insufficient.

The ANC used a two-track proposal, first calling for the project to be disallowed, then indicating that if the project is approved, the University should meet a list of conditions. The conditions were listed in an ANC resolution.

University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said the ANC had more than nine months to negotiate amenities with the University and did not take the opportunity, while WECA did.

GW is required to offer benefits and amenities to local residents as part of the zoning permit for the building, located at 1957 E St.

“The (ANC) brought these proposals to us in the eleventhhour,” Barber said. “We are objecting to their resolution because they shared (their amenities) with us so late in the process.”

Barber said the package and the ANC’s “passive” resolution, which states GW should make the building “long-term, non-University, condominium housing” and contribute two million dollars over five years to the Foggy Bottom Association for a legal defense fund, is “ludicrous.”

“They basically want us to fund lawsuits against ourselves,” Barber said. “We submitted a response saying they have no merit.”

The ANC also indicated problems with the current amenities package, including more than a dozen amenities, such as retail space in University buildings for community stores and a $500,000 donation to a local food charity.

The ANC report cites free classes for School Without Walls students as an example of an ambiguous amenity. The report states that there is “no evidence that the School Without Walls is interested in the proposal” and the amenity is an example of a benefit proposed “without notice, without hearing, without evidence, without cross-examination and without rebuttal.”

ANC-2A Chairwoman Elizabeth Elliott said the University is using the amenities package as a distraction from a discussion of the legality of the building.

Elliott said the resolution is not an attempt to negotiate with GW for amenities.

“All we are suggesting is that if the Zoning Commission is foolish enough to (allow GW to use the building), they should consider what (is in the resolution),” Elliott said.

WECA presented wording changes and accused GW of trying to delay contributions to local organization, but does not oppose the project itself.

The WECA response also emphasizes that the ANC failed to identify any specific amenities for almost an entire year when they were asked.

However, members of the ANC and WECA are taking issue with the groups’ official stances.

ANC commissioner Jeff Marootian, a GW graduate student, filed a letter with the Zoning Commission last week “strongly” opposing the ANC-2A’s position on the amenities package.

In the letter, dated May 7, Marootian writes the ANC-2A “forfeited” its opportunity to negotiate with GW on amenities or benefits that could stem from the construction of the building.

WECA members are also dissenting, noting that some in the group were not asked about the negotiations with GW.

Donald Kreuzer, a WECA board member, said he sent a letter to the Zoning Commission to underscore the bad communication between the various community groups.

The letter, also dated May 7, indicates that the view expressed by WECA members during past Zoning Commission hearings were not representative of the entire group.

Kreuzer said community groups like the ANC, WECA, Foggy Bottom Association, and Watergate and Columbia Plaza tenants associations need to convene and discuss a general position on the entire project.

He agreed with Elliott’s view that the entire project needs to be re-thought and that the amenities are just part of larger problem with the University acting as a “cancer” of Foggy Bottom, building beyond campus boundaries.

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