Zoning Meetings Confront Issue of All Undergrads on Campus, Loop Road
Two meetings of the D.C. Zoning Commission—May 12 and May 16—dealt with the issues of the D.C. Office of Planning's review of Georgetown University's 2010-2020 campus plan. The Office of Planning calls for the university to house 100 percent of its undergraduate students on campus by fall semester 2016, as well as the university's proposed loop road, which would cut north to south on the west edge of the main campus.
At the May 16 zoning board meeting, District Department of Transportation officials said it cannot support the university's application for the road because Georgetown did not submit enough information. "The Zoning Commission members were left wondering how they could evaluate a plan without specific guidance or suggestions from the transportation agency," according to the Georgetown Patch.
Zoning commissioner Peter May found it "unusual" to get a report, especially for something as long gestating as the campus plan, and for DDOT to then “say you believe their report is inadequate." This uncertainty left the zoning commission wondering how it might evaluate the loop road, especially in light of the possibility that a new hospital might be built on the campus in the future.
At the May 12 meeting, Jennifer Steingasser of the Office of Planning discussed its findings with Maureen Dwyer, an attorney for Georgetown University, who questioned Steingasser on the requirements of housing 100 percent of undergraduates on campus by autumn 2016 and the huge cost involved. Steingasser said that the panel ignored the economics and simply wanted to issue constraints on students living in the nearby neighborhood—whose larger numbers affect the quality of life—and that it hoped to maintain "neighborhood conservation" and restore balance.
The Office of Planning stated in its report: "O.P. is concerned that the maximum total enrollment of students…places the surrounding neighborhoods at the tipping point of diminished residential character. Off-campus student living and commuting traffic add to the deterioration of the residential character of the surrounding neighborhoods." If Georgetown cannot meet the projected numbers, it would have to adjust its enrollment caps.
While the evaluations by the Office of Planning and the DDOT are not binding on the zoning commission, they do have enormous influence on the zoning debate.
The next zoning meetings on the campus plan will be on June 2 and 6.