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AU neighbors disappointed with planning report

The controversy over the American University campus plan has moved from the streets to the D.C. Zoning Commission. The residents have shown their opposition to the AU proposals with demonstrations to illustrate the gridlock they believe will happen to pedestrian and vehicle traffic at Ward Circle and on Nebraska Ave. if the AU plan is approved along with the development of the Homeland Security site, also on Ward Circle. The process includes regulatory proceedings, including the crucial report by the District’s Office of Planning and its recommendations to the Commission. Overall, the Office of Planning (part of the Mayor's administration) supports AU’s proposal to “create additional student housing on the Main Campus, upgrade its academic and athletic facilities, add student activity space at the core of the campus, and relocate” the law school to Tenley Circle to make it “more transit-accessible.” One of the principal points of contention is the development of the parking lot at Nebraska and Massachusetts Aves. and AU’s proposal to build student dorms there, facing homes at Westover Place. Neighbors are opposed to these buildings because of the noise, especially late at night, the loss of the sightlines from their homes and overall degradation of their ambiance they fear will occur with student dorms. In response, the Office of Planning recommends that the number of beds be topped at 400 for the parking lot development, that the buildings be separated from Westover Place by a 65 foot landscape buffer, that only two- and three-story non-residential buildings be allowed within the next 40 feet and that the residential uses (i.e. dorms) be no closer than 100 feet to Westover Place. Many residents say the report is “disappointing,” according to Mary Ellen Fehrmann, one of the local leaders opposing the AU plan. She states emphatically that residents are not against development of the parking lot and would, in fact, “welcome” non-residential uses, such as administration buildings, classrooms, a university welcome center and the proposed president’s office building. “These are all fine,” she said. The student dorms should be on the “core campus.”