RETURN WITH US once more, if you will, to the Georgetown waterfront, that not-so-scenic site of the endless planning machine where strong views and weak decisions live side by side in bureaucratic perpetuity. Comes now the latest in a series of self-canceling decisions about what not to do with the tract running from Key Bridge to Rock Creek, between the run-down Whitehurst Freeway and the Potomac. The object of the game here, as you may recall, was to put there something just a little more eye-catching than the current complex of trash, rubble, parking lots and building ghosts. After years of backs and forths to the drawing board, there did emerge a reasonable design for a commercial-residential-green-space area -- or at least we thought so.

The Fine Arts Commission almost thought so, too -- that is, until its membership changed right after what was the sixth review of the current plan. Now the commission has reversed its old self and rejected the design. Those Georgetown residents who have lobbied with all their considerable might for nothing but a park on the site consider this a victory. But fortunately, the latest action doesn't mean that this tract will be converted into an unused back yard or empty wedge between the river and the city. For the time being -- give or take a decade -- Georgetowners may well have to live with the mess that's there, until there is agreement on a development plan.

The commission could review its decision on this design; and, given the alternative of a protracted court suit by either side or both, this course has merit. So does the design.