At first glance, the University’s appeal to the District Zoning Commission to extend the operating hours of the Health and Wellness Center seems like another attempt to impose its whims and further encroach on the Foggy Bottom community. Resident complaints, however, are not legitimate, as the University’s proposal is the most practical solution to a non-controversial issue.
In 1998, the Board of Zoning Adjustment allowed the construction of the HWC only if the University agreed to restrict operating hours to closing at 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 p.m. on Sunday. The University’s recent appeal to this restriction through the Advisory Neighborhood Commission was denied by a vote of 4-0, and now GW is petitioning the Zoning Commission directly.
Students have consistently requested extended gym hours, and the new proposal would allow the Health and Wellness Center to stay open until 1 a.m. Sunday through Friday and 11 p.m. on Saturday.
To offer something to the community in return for eschewing zoning procedure, the University has included a request to allow GW to sell up to 3,000 memberships to community members for the low fee of $300 a year.
The Zoning Commission should allow the extension of operating hours – it is better for students (shorter lines at treadmills) and it will not have a significant negative impact on the community (contrary to residents’ belief, students are not exceptionally noisy on their way to work out). In fact, students going to bars make a lot more noise, and may be deterred from doing so if they could be in the gym during the late evening hours.
Community members should learn to pick their battles. They are understandably worried about the University’s continuous intrusion into their neighborhood, but this proposal’s benefits far outweigh the costs. Many residents will have the ability to join the state-of-the-art HWC at a very low price and students will be able to work out more often at hours conducive to college life.