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When Maureen Dwyer attended her first zoning hearing in the late 1970s, her presence got more attention from the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment than her cause did. Dwyer is probably the first woman to practice zoning in the District, and she recalls the late zoning board member Walter Lewis singling her out and exclaiming, “Wait a minute! Wilkes Artis hires women — this is great!” Dwyer, 51, had not intended to be a trailblazer. She wanted to be a litigator, but with the birth of her son during law school, she decided she had to pick a less grueling practice. She joined Wilkes Artis in 1978 because zoning work offered many of the challenges of litigation without the seven-day workweeks. “It gave me an opportunity to really develop ties in the community,” Dwyer says. In her 22 years at Wilkes Artis, she developed an important niche representing colleges and universities, notably Georgetown University and George Washington University, in their increasingly controversial campus plans and building projects. In 2000, Dwyer moved to Shaw Pittman with about a dozen colleagues, taking the university practice with her. “Any school case is controversial because they are in residential neighborhoods, for the most part, and there is a resistance to change or growth,” says Dwyer, who was an urban planning major in college. For Georgetown, Dwyer has helped the university get its long-range campus plans approved by city zoning officials. She also successfully steered the school through a long, emotional battle over a child care center for university employees on P Street in Georgetown, a fight that started in the mid-1990s and wasn’t resolved until last year. She also has helped George Washington with its campus plan, and her firm is now representing the school in a court challenge of dormitory construction restrictions imposed by the Board of Zoning Adjustment. “Maureen has developed an appreciation for the struggles that urban colleges and universities grapple with,” says Charles Barber, senior counsel at George Washington University. “She understands how enrollment drives our finances,” he says, adding, “She is not afraid to take a strong or unpopular position.”

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