Zoning board grapples with Georgetown U expansion

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Local,Caitlin Byrnes
Georgetown University is still grappling with a 10-year plan that includes a shuttle loop that some say will bring unnecessary traffic and noise into border neighborhoods.

The university presented its revised plan, as it is required to do to get mandatory District approval each decade, in a hearing Thursday night before the D.C. Zoning Board. The hearing stretched five hours before the board chose to end the meeting and schedule two more dates to debate the plan. The plan has been in the works for two years.

Georgetown University President John DeGioia said the school wants to offer housing to all of its 6,675 students, but can't without expansion. Currently, nearly 80 percent of students live on campus.

A proposed transit bus loop on the western edge of campus near the Foxhall neighborhood is one of the plan's most controversial aspects. The school says it will better serve students and hospital patients, but neighbors worry about its effect on lifestyle.

"The proposed Georgetown campus plan is an example of aggressive university growth that if implemented will diminish the quality of life for the surrounding communities," the District-Wide Coalition of University Neighborhoods told the Georgetown Dish before that meeting. "These challenges include overwhelming density and growth, traffic congestion, disruptive noise, and safety issues."

D.C. Council members Mary Cheh and Jack Evans, whose districts include Georgetown, George Washington and American universities, have expressed support for citizen groups but did not testify at the hearing.

In a Feb. 10 letter to the university, however, Cheh openly opposed the route, saying alternative routes are possible.

At the Zoning Board hearing, additional questions were directed at the possible Georgetown University Hospital expansion, although definitive plans on that have not been released.

The Zoning Board next will take up the university expansion on May 12 16, with additional hearings June 2 and 6 if needed.

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