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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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BZA reinstates hurdle

In a decision lauded as a victory for residents and defeat for GW, the Board of Zoning Adjustment Tuesday re-instated provisions with added provisions that could hamper future construction projects.

The BZA ruled in a unanimous 5-0 decision to reinstate, in large part, previous campus requirements that were temporarily suspended, including a requirement that GW house 70 percent of its undergraduate population in buildings that lie within official campus boundaries.

The board decided that by September 2002 the University would be required to house 70 percent of the undergraduate population either on campus or in University housing outside the Foggy Bottom and West End communities. By September 2006, buildings off campus would no longer be counted.

At the same time, GW won a small victory in a decision to eliminate an enrollment cap previously issued and include the under-construction Elliott School of International Affairs, which will house 200 students, in on-campus counts. According to the decision, Aston Hall, the Hall on Virginia Avenue, City Hall and Pennsylvania House are still counted off campus.

The BZA also included in population counts a number of off-campus students who were not previously counted. GW is also required to submit enrollment and housing figures more frequently, as originally ordered by a District Court judge June 15. At past hearings and meetings, University officials said they did not know how many students lived off campus.

The decision replaces the BZA order from March 29 that froze enrollment and prevented construction of non-residential buildings until 70 percent of students live on campus. In June, a judge had suspended those conditions for a year.

The 70-percent figure applies to 7,881 full-time undergraduates, although the figure is eight months old. The University submitted the number to the BZA on Feb. 13. The board decided the University must add one bed per undergraduate admitted after Aug. 31, 2001.

The board rejected a Foggy Bottom Association proposal submitted Sept. 21 to require to GW house 75 percent of students on campus by 2004. Under the proposal, Aston Hall would be counted as on-campus and Columbia Plaza would be removed from the housing lottery.

The board decided to include certain “students that we can’t or shouldn’t house,” said University Senior Counsel Charles Barber.

These include students who commute, are married, have children, have particular religious beliefs or have “certain disabilities that aren’t appropriate for residential life,” Barber said.

FBA members said the counting changes would make it easier to get data on students.

“(This ruling) is one of the simpler ways. It doesn’t require tracking segments of the student population,” said BZA member Carol Mitten. “It’s not overly burdensome to the University or the zoning administrator.”

Barber said he believes students now counted that were not included in population numbers before make up about 15 percent of the student population. FBA President Jacqueline Lemire disagreed with the estimation.

The University will now be required to send a report by Feb. 28 to the BZA, the D.C. Office of Planning and Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The report must include the total number of undergraduates, the number of on-campus beds for undergraduates and the number and location of all University-controlled beds inside and outside campus limits. The BZA also required that this report be filed twice a year.

Neighborhood officials said they were pleased with the ruling.
“I think on the whole it’s good,” Lemire said. She said she did not think the University faces a large problem.

“Thirty percent (of students are) not going to have to be housed,” she said. “The University can require students to stay on campus.”
Barber said he is not pleased with the ruling.

“They’re raising the bar,” he said. “It’s harder to reach 70 percent; there are commuters.”

Barber also said he did not like the fact that existing off-campus residence halls are not included.

“From what we’ve heard, it sounds like this is an unfair decision,” he said.

BZA Chairwoman Sheila Cross Reid said they thought the decision was fair and is in the best interest of the District.

“It will achieve sustainability of the Foggy Bottom community as well as the George Washington University,” she said. “Both are inextricably linked.”
Reid said the board had to compromise among all sides of the case.

“Our sincere hope is that it strikes a balance giving something to everyone but not everything to one person,” she said.

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