GW officials breathed a sigh of relief earlier this month when a D.C. Superior Court judge threw out a motion to halt construction of the Ivory Towers residence hall. Administrators said they are now confident that the path is clear for completion of the 729-bed facility by next fall.
At issue is a suit by Donald Kreuzer, who owns three townhouses adjacent to the structure, alleging the University is building the 23rd Street facility partially over the northernmost wall of one of the homes. The August 8 ruling strictly dealt with a Kreuzer request that the court order the University to stop construction until the whole case is resolved at trial next summer.
Although Judge James E. Boasberg ruled that Kreuzer’s argument regarding property rights has “a likelihood of success” in a future trial, Boasberg denied Kreuzer’s motion to block construction because he has no immediate plans to build on or alter his townhouses. Kreuzer, a 30-year resident of the property, testified that he was looking to build an addition to the townhouse or construct a nine story building in place of the homes but has never “presented…any tangible or reliable evidence” of his proposals, the judge ruled.
“It was a 95 percent win for (GW)…halting construction is no longer on the table,” said Associate General Counsel Linda Schutjer, who is handling the case for the University.
Schutjer said even if Kreuzer is successful in a trial next summer, the University would be forced to pay “immaterial” damages compared to the $60 million value of the building.
She said GW might be ordered to pay for the value of the less than ten square feet the dormitory lies over his house. Schutjer added that the University interprets the ruling to mean that the “only right (Kreuzer) has to the wall is for it to hold up his living room.”
But J. Michael Hannon, who represented Kreuzer, disputes GW’s interpretation of the case, arguing the University will be forced to demolish the part of the building that protrudes over the townhouse.
Boasberg said he based his ruling on four factors Kreuzer had to prove in order for the court to halt construction – whether Kreuzer’s case was likely to succeed in trial, whether continued construction would cause him “irreparable harm,” whether stopping or continuing construction was in the public interest and which party would suffer worse consequences based on the ruling.
While the judge ruled Kreuzer’s arguments would have merit at next year’s trial, Boasberg ruled in favor of GW on the last three factors, enabling GW to continue construction. The judge also argued that continuing construction is in the public interest, because the facility will help the University comply with city zoning laws.
District zoning orders, which GW is disputing in federal and district courts, require the University to house 70 percent of undergraduates within campus boundaries by fall 2004. GW currently houses about 52 percent of students within city-defined campus boundaries, which exclude the Aston, City Hall, Hall on Virginia Avenue and Pennsylvania House.
Schutjer said university officials are open to resolving the dispute out of court and are working with Kreuzer to come to a “reasonable settlement.”