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Last night’s Georgetown University Campus Plan Zoning Commission hearing was the culmination of months of meetings. At one point, Chairman Anthony Hood said he was willing to keep the meeting going until “10 minutes to 12” midnight in order to finish all of the business.

It only ran until around 11 p.m.—-four-and-a-half hours—-but the residents and university officials who stayed late into the night seemed to be more intractable than ever. One now-retired Burleith resident I spoke to told me that while she knew what she was moving into when she bought a home in the area in the ’90s, there are just “so many more students” hanging out in the neighborhood than there were then.

Yet, the university says there are actually 143 fewer off-campus undergraduates than there were 10 years ago. Obviously there’s a lot going on here—-and I’m teasing them out in a much longer story—-but there generally seems to be a disconnect between reality and perception on both sides of the campus-plan issue. While Georgetown University has the actual numbers on how many students currently live off-campus, the Burleith resident said she feels like her neighborhood has “become campus,” adding, “I moved to be near a college campus, not to live on one.”

Anecdotally, she pointed to the students hanging out in front of her house at 4 a.m. the previous day. They weren’t drunk, she said, “they were just talking and having a good time.” But it was loud and at an odd hour—-unless you live on a college campus.

I’m not sure what’s going on here: Whether it’s that neighbors have become grouchier and less tolerant or whether students simply feel less tethered to campus and more at home lingering outside of their residences.

Meanwhile, Georgetown University spokesperson Stacy Kerr says that the neighbors’ request to have 100 percent of students either housed on campus or outside of zip code 20007 was rejected outright because, “We believe that being mandated to create a satellite campus outside of our current footprint would fundamentally change the Georgetown undergraduate experience.”

The theme of the night seemed to be: “The burden is on Georgetown to prove to us that our feelings about this are wrong.” Neighbors even made the argument that picking up nearby neighborhood trash twice a day, seven days a week—-a policy Georgetown says it implemented at the request of the neighbors—-is actually causing students to leave more trash out all the time.

And later, when Georgetown lawyers pointed out that the number of noise-complaint 911 calls are down, the neighbors I was sitting behind immediately began murmuring to one another: “That’s not true,” and, “That can’t be true.”

That’s a difficult perception for any university to fight—-and Georgetown holds that its only responsibility is to meet the legal standard with its updated plan, which it says it has.

The Zoning Commission is scheduled to hold an open deliberation meeting and render a decision on the Georgetown University Campus Plan on February 9, 2012.

Photo by Kevin H. via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 License