The Zoning Commission wants Georgetown University and the surrounding community to address their town-gown conflicts in a productive arena, namely outside the and the commission's hearing room at 441 4th St., NW.
Zoning Commission Chairman Anthony Hood has consistently pushed for Georgetown University and members of the Georgetown community to regularly discuss the impacts the school and its students have on the surrounding neighborhoods as more effective way to find common ground on those issues.
Hood points to a successful community relations effort by Howard University as the model on which Georgetown and other universities should base their relationships with neighbors. Just last week, Hood, along with with his fellow commissioners, approved the American University (AU) campus plan in part because AU followed Hood's advice.
AU created a Community Liaison Committee similar to the one Hood says has been so successful in resolving issues around Howard University.
The key parts of this committee are:
-that a top-ranking administration official is present and engaged;
-that the meetings would be regular (at least quarterly);
-that any unresolved issues can/should be resolved through a third party moderator, chosen with input by the community and paid for by the university.
Though Commissioner Hood remarked at the final AU Campus Plan hearing, "Nobody wants to meet, to meet," that's exactly how opponents of the GU Campus Plan view previous meetings between community leaders and the university adminstrators.
For a year leading up to the filing of GU's plan, Altemus attended nearly-weekly meetings with top administration officials, she said. While "we met in good faith, we tried to mitigate any objectionable conditions, nothing really came of it," she said.
These previous experiences leave Altemus skeptical that any new community outreach program to address town-gown issues would work.
"We don’t have a lot of faith in the University choosing to listen to us," she said.
At the end of the , Hood tasked GU with providing information that showed that its quality of life efforts were working. Georgetown's filings on its efforts are due in April prior to a public meeting May 10.
Stacy Kerr, a spokesperson for the University, told Patch in an email that senior administrators had met on several occasions with Howard University to discuss their community-based solutions.
Kerr said GU is using the time before the next Zoning Commission action to "look for ways to restructure and engage with our neighbors to find mutually beneficial solutions."
But neighbors hope the Zoning Commission will make a decision and one that reflects the opinion of the Office of Planning (OP), which and more housing outside the Georgetown zip code.
, most commissioners agreed that students living off-campus have had a demonstrated, negative impact on the quality of life for neighbors. But they were not comfortable with imposing the strict limitations suggested by OP.
"I am very uncomfortable with the idea that we would put in place a complete exclusion of Georgetown students from the neighborhoods surrounding the university," said.
Still, Altemus says, "I feel optimistic, since OP is really standing firm with us and they are the guiding office" for the commission.
That optimism is based, in part, on necessity.
"It’s really our only hope," she said. "We don’t have a lot of wiggle room. We are really worried that we are going to lose our community."
For Georgetown's part, it says it's examining all options "to find systems and processes that reflect our commitment to being a good neighbor and allow all of the stakeholders involved to work together to find solutions to the challenges that we face. No option is off the table and many reasonable solutions are being considered," Kerr said.
Whether or not those solutions are enough for the community or the Zoning Commission remains to be seen.