Neighbor sues GW over residence hall

A Foggy Bottom resident filed a lawsuit against GW last week, claiming a new residence hall under construction at 23rd and G streets is being built partially on his property.

Donald Kreuzer, owner of three townhouses next to the construction site, said in his lawsuit that the construction “constitutes a trespass and irreparable harm to (the) enjoyment of (my) property.” He is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages, in addition to a quick halt on construction.

The University scored an early victory in the case when a District court judge declined Tuesday to issue a temporary restraining order against further construction of the residence hall. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for June 13, when a judge will decide whether to temporarily stop construction until a decision on the lawsuit is reached. Kreuzer’s lawyer has asked for a trial date in September.

University Associate General Counsel Linda Schutjer, who is handling the case for GW, said she was confident that last week’s request would be denied and that the hearing on June 13 will meet the same fate.

“I was never really worried about it because the law is so obviously on our side,” said Schutjer of last week’s decision.

Kreuzer said when the residence hall opens it will arch over his property, encroaching upon a boundary line marked by a 120-year-old wall of one of his homes. The 10-story Ivory Towers residence hall – which will house more than 700 students – is slated for completion in September 2004.

The facility would help the University come into compliance with city zoning orders requiring GW to house 70 percent of undergraduates on campus (See “City prevents SBPM building construction,” p. 1).

But Schutjer said the boundary line in question – the wall of Kreuzer’s house – is jointly owned by Kreuzer and GW, allowing GW to construct a building that extends partly over the townhouse.

“If we want to go up to the sky on our side of the wall, we’re allowed to do it, and if he wants to go up to the sky on his side of the wall, he can do it, too,” Schutjer said.

J. Michael Hannon, Kreuzer’s lawyer, said even if the wall is jointly owned by GW – which he disputes – the building is still encroaching on his client’s property.

“The property line is not in the middle of the wall, but if that’s their position; they’re only entitled to come up to the middle of the wall, and they’re going over the wall,” Hannon said.

He is also suing on six other grounds, including points that the building would be a public nuisance, the University engaged in “bad faith dealing” and GW officials have “defamed” him in public statements.

Hannon also said GW offered to buy Kreuzer’s townhouses last year for a price that is below market value but declined to disclose actual offers.

GW officials also declined to discuss specific numbers from last year’s offer. University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said GW offered less to Kreuzer than it did several years ago, when it made an offer that was “something in the neighborhood” of $2 million.

But Kreuzer said “nobody” ever offered him $2 million for his property, and GW’s proposal last year was $100 per square foot less than what he initially paid. Kreuzer would not disclose the actual amount.

GW bought and demolished 14 townhouses lining 23rd Street before it began construction on the Ivory Towers in August. Kreuzer was the only resident of the street not to sell his property to the University.

Trachtenberg said GW – which is still interested in purchasing Kreuzer’s houses – offered Kreuzer less money last year because the University did not need Kreuzer’s property to construct the Ivory Towers.

He also said GW is now offering to buy Kreuzer’s property for more than its value. But Kreuzer’s lawyer said there is no offer currently on the table.

“(Several years ago) we could have integrated (Kreuzer’s houses) into the Ivory Tower structure. Now it’s too late for that,” Trachtenberg said.

“We’d be happy to buy his property for more than it’s worth because we’re good guys, because he’s a pest, because we’d like to get on with our lives,” Trachtenberg added.

He also called the $10 million in damages sought by Kreuzer “too much,” adding, “I think he’s inhaling.”

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