Court hears arguments in appeal of GW’s campus plan

Attorneys for both the Foggy Bottom Association and the University presented arguments this month in a pair of FBA appeals that challenge GW’s plans to construct more buildings on campus.

In the complaints – which were originally filed in the D.C. Court of Appeals last summer – the FBA seeks to overturn a pair of rulings from the D.C. Zoning Commission that approved GW’s 20-year Campus Plan in 2007 and construction of the multi-purpose development at Square 54. The FBA has long opposed further development in the area, specifically GW’s campus plan.

One of the organization’s main complaints stems from the commission’s decision to consider the campus plan under a “Planned Unit Development” designation. The designation, which FBA attorney Con Hitchcock said opens up more land for construction, allowed the plan to move forward even in the face of community criticism, as long as it provided amenities to area residents – like the planned grocery store at Square 54.

Under the PUD designation, GW will have “considerably more density,” Hitchcock said.

The appeal also questions the commission’s choice to allow an environmental review of planned developments to occur after building permits have already been secured for construction. The FBA contends that an environmental review of the campus plan should occur before it is fully approved, instead of when construction on each building is close to beginning.

“It makes more sense to consider environmental issues while options are still on the table,” Hitchcock said, arguing that even if environmental problems were discovered in a review at the building permit stage, it may be too late to make sufficient changes.

The FBA is also asking the court to overturn the commission’s ruling on the grounds that its decision did not fully explain why it ruled as it did. The commission must adequately explain its decisions under a government oversight regulation, Hitchcock said.

It is unknown when the court will rule on the appeals, though Hitchcock said it could take months.

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