Evans supports Burleith against GU, but...
Councilmember Jack Evans’ visit to the annual Burleith Citizens Association was advertised by the community as something different – a defining moment when the councilmember would be asked directly and forcefully to support Burleith’s opposition to Georgetown University’s expansion plan, most notably GU's desire to add more students without an equivalent amount of university-related housing to prevent further conversion to group-home rentals in Burleith.
Evans, chair of the finance committee and the Council’s most senior member, opened with a lucid presentation on the District’s overall bleak financial prospects.
However, as expected, the first question, from a 32-year resident, was about GU’s expansion plan. Did he “oppose” GU's planned increase? "I do,” Evans emphatically replied, quickly adding that the “City Council doesn’t have a role” in these land-use questions. He directed the community to the D.C. Zoning Commission and the Office of Planning in the executive branch.
Despite further questions and requests for help, Evans also said he would not testify or write to the Commission (because “that’s all I would be doing”), that he has little influence over the three council-confirmed Commission members and would not introduce legislation on the plan. Evans also said he would not vote against GU’s request for $90 million in tax-exempt bonds. This is because when he did vote against a similar request for the American Red Cross, he heard many protests, including from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton. “I’m me and I want to keep that program [and] the feds will just take it over,” he said.
One person did support GU, saying he expected to be “stoned to death” for his stand. However, the overwhelming sentiment among the 50+ attendees in the Duke Ellington High School cafeteria was against the University's plan. Evans, however, stuck to his position: ”I wish I could solve your problem….this is just the way our government is set up," though he reiterated his opposition to GU’s planned 85-foot smokestack.
Ed Solomon, the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for Burleith who introduced Evans, also said he was against the GU plan. “As it stands now, I can’t support it.”