8-13-98 -- Boston College officials have announced plans to appeal the recent decision by the Newton Conservation Commission regarding a proposal for the construction of two new athletic fields on the University's Newton Campus. The University also has announced plans to proceed immediately with preparations for construction of a regulation-size soccer field and practice field on that campus.
On July 23, the Newton Conservation Commission voted 3-1, with one abstention, against the proposal, declaring a brook in the area to be a river, which, under the state's Rivers Protection Act passed in August 1996, would require any field to be located at least 200 feet away from it. The commission also voted to deny Boston College its exemption from Rivers Act regulations.
Boston College maintains that the stream, known as Edmands Brook, is intermittent -- dry for part of the year -- and, therefore, not a river. In addition, the University maintains that, in any event, the project is exempt from the Rivers Protection Act requirements as a project that was subject to a completed MEPA review prior to 1996. Boston College will appeal the commission's ruling to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Due to the commission's decision, Boston College, faced with a serious need for athletic playing fields, will proceed to construct a suitable field on its Newton Campus in compliance with the restrictions of the ruling. The new location will be closer to Colby Street and outside a 200-foot radius of the brook.
"We were extremely disappointed that the Newton Conservation Commission chose to ignore the weight of scientific evidence indicating that Edmands Brook is an intermittent stream," said Boston College Associate Vice President for State and Community Relations Paul White. "We also were very disheartened that our carefully constructed, environmentally sensitive plan, fine-tuned in response to citizen suggestions, was struck down by the commission. The fields, entirely contained within Boston College's own property, would not have encroached in any way on Edmands Park. In addition, the plan would have ensured state-of-the-art engineering features, preservation of many of the trees and much of the natural vegetation and, most importantly, was largely responsive to neighbors' concerns.
"Boston College is now compelled to move forward under the constraints imposed by the commission's restrictions," White said. "We will proceed in a way that is as sensitive as possible to both the immediate neighbors and the environment, within the limitations imposed by those restrictions."
White noted that the decision is particularly unfortunate given the many efforts the University had made to solicit and respond to the concerns of neighbors, especially immediate abutters. Extensive modifications to the construction proposal had been made following a number of meetings with neighbors, conservation officials and other interested parties.
The plan voted down by the commission had incorporated many mitigation elements that had been worked out in the course of discussion with neighbors, some of which will no longer be possible given the constraints of the ruling, including moving the regulation soccer field farther away from abutting neighbors and maintaining a dense vegetative buffer along the path into Edmands Park.
"It is only fair to our student-athletes that we provide them with adequate fields on which to practice and play," said Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo. "With 33 varsity sports programs and very limited existing field space, the Newton Campus site is the only one available that we can convert into a suitable playing and practice facility."
Boston College officials note that the University will do everything possible to address neighborhood and environmental concerns in the new construction plan, but recognize that this will be more difficult given the constraints imposed by the Newton Conservation Commission ruling.
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