WEB EXTRA: Court lifts zoning requirements pending final decision

Posted July 14: University officials are still considering whether to begin construction on the new business school building after a small victory in District court last week. The D.C. Court of Appeals temporarily lifted a city-imposed moratorium on the construction of non-residential buildings last Thursday.

GW had hoped to break ground on the building in the fall but city zoning requirements have put the state-of-the-art facility, set to go up next to Funger Hall, on hold.

The court stayed other provisions in the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment order which require the University to house 70 percent of its undergraduate students – including all freshman and sophomores – on a BZA-defined campus or outside Foggy Bottom. The University now has a green light to not abide by the order until the court issues a general decision.

The order prevents the construction of non-residential buildings until GW – which last semester housed 52 percent of its students within these boundaries – complies with the housing requirement.

The court, which is expected to issue a decision on the order as early as September, can still uphold the BZA order, putting GW – should it choose to go ahead with construction – in the precarious position of having a half-completed building.

University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said Wednesday that a decision on whether to start construction would be made in the next few days, but University officials are wary of starting construction until the court makes a final decision.

“(The anticipated final decision) is something we need to consider before we begin construction,” he said.

Barber called the stay a “positive development” because the court recognized that GW presented a strong case for repealing the BZA order.

“It’s a good indication but it’s no guarantee of how it will come out,” Barber said.

“We recognize this is not over,” he added.

Barber said the stay meant GW was no longer in noncompliance with the housing order for its decision to house freshman in the Hall on Virginia Avenue – a residence hall outside of BZA-defined campus boundaries. GW initially planned to house upperclassmen in the hall but housing officials retracted their decision after realizing upperclassmen interest would be low in the traditionally all-freshmen hall.

Peter Lavallee, a spokesman for the D.C. Corporation Counsel, which represents the city in court, said the stay was not a serious blow to the city’s efforts to enforce the BZA order.

“The court probably wanted to have a chance to review the full merits of the case before they imposed any resolution,” he said.

Lavallee also said if GW went ahead with construction of the business school building, it would “take it at their own risk” because the court could still uphold the BZA order before the building is completed.

The proposed $56 million facility, Ric and Dawn Duques Hall, if built, would be situated between Funger and Madison halls.

Barber said GW would continue to construct on-campus residence halls regardless of the court’s final decision.

Barber said the construction of Greek-letter Townhouse Row and the Ivory Towers, scheduled to open in fall 2003 and fall 2004, would add about 1,000 on-campus beds.

He also said GW is finalizing plans for the construction of a residence hall in the parking lot adjacent to Francis Scott Key Hall.

“We’re moving aggressively with on-campus housing…we think that’s important,” he said.

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