Catholic University’s development plan passed

GW’s 20-year Campus Plan will go before the D.C. Zoning Commission Monday for possible approval after Catholic University’s proposed campus plan amendment passed during a single public hearing late last month.

Monday’s hearing for GW’s plan, which is a proposed agreement between the city and GW on restrictions for future campus development, is the seventh meeting in a four-month process before the Zoning Commission. The tone of the hearings has been contentious at times, as the Foggy Bottom Association and local elected officials have used lawyers and expert testimony to block GW’s 2006 Campus Plan proposal. GW’s new 20-year proposal would supersede the original 10-year plan initially conceived in 2000.

In contrast to the resistance GW has seen, no parties came out in opposition to Catholic’s campus plan, said D.C. Office of Zoning Spokesperson Sara Bardin.

Catholic’s proposal changed the construction site for two residence halls approved in its 2002 campus plan. Locally elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners said they were happy to see more residence halls on Catholic’s campus because that translates into fewer students in the surrounding neighborhood.

“I have no problems with (the amendment) because it’s about things the community would rather have happen,” said ANC 5A Commissioner Mary Baird-Currie. Baird-Currie, who represents a district that borders Catholic, said the Michigan Park ANC has not voted on the campus plan yet, but assumed the other commissioners would approve it at the next meeting.

Nearly all of Catholic’s student body lives on campus, according to the university’s Housing and Residential Services. GW is required to house 70 percent of its students – including all freshmen and sophomores – on campus as part of the 2000 Campus Plan.

Recently elected Foggy Bottom/West End ANC Chair Michael Thomas said one of the reasons residents are upset about the University’s proposed construction is the inconvenience the projects place on the neighborhood. Thomas said the approved construction of a 474 bed dorm on F Street, behind the School Without Walls, is a continuation of the school encroaching on residential housing.

“The basic problem is that if GW gets what it wants, there will be a lot of construction for a lot years and that will be disruptive to the residential neighborhood,” he said.

ANC 5C Chairperson Anita Bonds, who represents the district with purview over Catholic University, said the fact that community residences are far away from proposed construction is the major difference between GW and Catholic. She said the relations between Catholic and its neighbors generally have been amicable.

“It’s a harmonious relationship,” she said. “But (unlike GW) we have very few residential structures next door to university facilities. It’s really entirely different.”

The different experiences of GW and Catholic in pursuing development projects show the scope of town-gown relationships between neighborhood communities and the universities they house.

“It’s really like comparing Pluto to the sun,” GW Media Relations Director Tracy Schario said about the two schools’ campus plan proposals.

Schario said the geography of the two campuses – one an enclosed campus and the other an urban campus integrated with the surrounding community – accounts for the different types of relations.

She said a similar proposal to Catholic University’s recent amendment to its campus plan was GW’s School Without Walls proposal. This project involves the University funding building renovations to a D.C. public high school located on campus in exchange for the school selling a parking lot to GW.

Although the SWW public hearing before the Zoning Commission was a well-attended hearing where there was not enough seating for all of the parties in support and opposition, it was approved in one night, similar to Catholic’s proposal.

Said Schario, “In the end, everyone realized that we needed a new dorm.”

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