Posts Tagged “Contemplative Center”
Hoyas will soon contemplate cloud formations and mountain peaks in Virginia.
After years of delays and litigation, the Calcagnini Contemplative Center is finally expected to be open for use by the fall of 2013.
Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Clarke County, Virginia, the land for the center was purchased so that Georgetown would own its very own retreat setting, and would not have to book all its retreats from other centers.
Although the property was bought in 2005, construction could not begin until this past year, due to opposition from Clarke County residents, who feared that a Georgetown retreat center in the area would promote too much traffic and development. There was also significant concern for the protection of an historic farmhouse which rests on the property.
But, according to Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J., the Vice President for Mission and Ministry, this farmhouse will remain preserved.
“We were able to preserve an historic property, a farmhouse, that was on the site and incorporate it into our Center. We recognized the importance of this historic building to the local community and incorporating it into our designs provides a visual and physical reminder of the past and the history of the property,” he said.
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A $17 million donation made by Arthur Calcagnini (COL ’54) and Nancy Calcagnini will fund the construction of the University’s long-planned retreat and contemplative center in Bluemont, Virginia.
The Calagninis previously donated $1.5 million towards the ESCAPE program, a nondenominational retreat offered to first-year and transfer students. When completed, the Calagnini Contemplative Center will host ESCAPE, as well as other faith-based retreats organized by the Office of Campus Ministry.
“Arthur and Nancy epitomize the core Catholic and Jesuit values at the heart of this university,” University President John DeGioia said in a statement. “Their gift to establish a contemplative center will animate the lives and deepen the faiths of generations of students to come.”
The center, which will include a dining hall, chapel, caretaker’s residence, and 28 cabins for 78 students, will be completed in 2011. The University purchased the 55-acre site in 2006 with plans to open the center in 2008, but the Clarke County Board of Supervisors did not approve construction plans until last May.
h/t University News
Photo: Flickr user “brokersaunders”
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Last Tuesday, the Clarke County Board of Supervisors voted to allow the University to move forward with its plans to build a retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The settlement reached between the Board and the University comes with significant restrictions, however.
As per the agreement, the Center will be restricted to seven acres of the 55-acre site. Additionally, the Board placed limits on the number of occupants allowed at the Center and the number of vehicle trips allowed to the site annually.
The decision came after more than a year of legal and political wrangling between the Board and the University. After the Board voted to reject Georgetown’s application for a special use permit in May 2009, the University responded by filing a civil complaint against the decision in the Clarke County Circuit Court.
At the time, the University asserted, “The Center would have minimal impact on the surrounding community, and on public infrastructure and services…Georgetown has also expended significant funds in pursuit of the Application which have effectively gone to waste because of the Board’s decision.”
The threat of looming litigation spurred the Board to rethink its decision in last week’s 3-2 vote.
“I am concerned we would lost in court,” Vice Chairman David Weiss said, according to the Northern Virginia Daily.
Weiss, who cast the deciding vote, claimed that the settlement agreement was “the best way out of a bad problem.”
Moving forward, the University plans to construct five buildings on the site, including a dining hall, chapel, and caretaker’s residence. The construction costs will be funded by a $10 million donation made by Arthur Calcagnini Jr. (COL ‘54). When completed, the Center will house spiritual retreats and Campus Ministry programs, such as ESCAPE.
Photo from Flickr user brokersaunders used under a Creative Commons license.
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Last time we checked in on Georgetown’s proposed Contemplative Center, it had just gotten the kibosh from the Clarke County Board of Supervisors. Turns out the University’s not too happy about that decision—they’ve filed a civil complaint with the Clarke County Circuit Court alleging that the Board’s decision was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” and asking the Court to issue an injunction requiring the Board of Supervisors to reconsider it.
Back in 2005, after receiving a $10 million donation from Arthur Calcagnini Jr. (COL ’54) to build a permanent home for retreat programs, Georgetown bought a plot of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Virginia. Because the property is zoned as “Forestral Open Space,” Georgetown needs to secure a Special Use Permit in order to build the center—and that’s where we’ve run afoul of the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.
In a meeting this May, the board rejected Georgetown’s application for a Special Use Permit 3-2, arguing that it would “erode” the zoning code and invite too much residential development. After that setback, University Architect Alan Brangman told the Winchester Star, “If we can’t do it here, we will have to put it somewhere else.” But it looks like Georgetown’s not ready to call it quits on the Blue Ridge Mountain site just yet.
The complaint Georgetown recently filed with the Circuit Court—which you can read in full after the jump—alleges that the application it presented to the board “meets all applicable requirements for the issuance of a special use permit as set forth in the County’s Zoning Ordinance” and that “the Board has, and has asserted, no valid reasons” for denying the it.
According to the complaint:
The Center would have minimal impact on the surrounding community, and on public infrastructure and services …. Because of the Board’s denial, Georgetown cannot use the Property for its intended purpose, and consequently must incur additional and significant expenses pursuing another location for its Center. Georgetown has also expended significant funds in pursuit of the Application which have effectively gone to waste because of the Board’s decision.
The University is arguing that the board’s “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” rejection of the application violates Virginia law. The complaint requests that the court “issue a mandatory injunction requiring the Board to reconsider, and to grant, the special use permit and site plan.”
Georgetown’s Director of Media Relations Andy Pino wrote in an email that he does not know when the Circuit Court will hear the University’s complaint.
Read the full complaint after the jump!
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The sun sets on Georgetown’s Blue Ridge Mountain dreams…
Remember the proposed “Contemplative Center” in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Virginia that was supposed to serve as a home to Campus Ministry programs like ESCAPE? Well, Georgetown won’t be breaking ground any time soon, thanks to the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.
Four years after buying the land, Georgetown’s request for a special-use permit, which would have allowed the project to move forward, was shot down by the Board at their meeting yesterday.
Although the University made concessions to local preservationists, agreeing to preserve the “Hohenheim House,” a 19th century, Gothic Revival farm house on the property, county officials still rejected the proposal, citing concerns about the center inviting too much residential development of the area.
The Winchester Star reports:
In a written statement, Supervisor Barbara Byrd insisted the SUP would be a “dangerous precedent” because it violated the county’s Comprehensive Plan and would “erode” its zoning code …
Byrd insisted the facility, with a dining hall, community room, several cabins, and a chapel was “not a school or a place of worship. It’s an in-house conference center,” such as the county turned down when the idea was advanced by the Salvation Army several years ago.
Although it’s not completely clear what the University’s plans for the center are going forward (University spokesperson Andy Pino wrote in an email, “Once we’ve evaluated all of our options, we’ll determine what our next steps will be.”), a quote from University Architect Alan Brangman in the Star‘s article makes it seem like this is the end for the Blue Ridge Mountain site:
After the vote, H. Alan Brangman, architect for Georgetown University, said the vote concluded what had been a six-year search by the school for a place for its retreat center. The university’s goal is still the same, he said.
“If we can’t do it here, we will have to put it somewhere else. If at first you don’t succeed…” he said.
Photo from Flickr user ehpien, used under a Creative Commons license.
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After wrangling for two years, the Georgetown retreat center is closer to becoming reality, barring some wild NIMBYs:
The county Planning Commission reviewed Georgetown’s plans for the center Friday and set a Dec. 5 public hearing on the issue.
“We’re pretty excited about getting to this point,” said H. Alan Brangman, university architect. “Obviously, the hardest part is yet to come.”
At last, a home for ESCAPE and its furry vests.
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Georgetown announced in 2006 that it was going to use a 56-acre property it had bought the year before in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Northern Virginia to build a “Contemplative Center.” Two years later, the University hasn’t even filed for a construction permit.
The center was supposed to house programs Campus Ministry programs like ESCAPE. Its $5.3 million price tag was to be covered by a $10 million donation by Arthur Calcagnini Jr. (COL ’54).
The center would have areas for religious services, art projects, meditations, and “perhaps even a ropes course”. Most interesting for current students, “the center could be ready for guests by the end of 2008.”
Now, months away from the proposed end of 2008 deadline, it looks like very little progress has been made. Georgetown has yet to submit the necessary application, site plans, or special use permit that must be approved before construction can begin. Plus, conservation-minded locals are already up in arms about the preservation of a 19th century farmhouse located on the property.
University Spokesperson Julie Green-Bataille writes in an email:
“…[O]nce the approvals are granted, we anticipate a 12 month construction time period so opening would be after that –the time frames in the [Blue & Gray] article are obviously outdated as we still haven’t secured the approvals but the plans have been presented to the local community on several occasions and we’re moving forward through the process.”
My guess is Georgetown students will be waiting a while longer for that ropes course. We’ll be sure to update you as the project gets further mired in Georgetown’s and Clarke’s unique morasses.
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