(5-28-99) -- Boston College has reached an agreement with its Newton Campus neighbors, the City of Newton and a community organization that allows BC to construct soccer fields on the Newton Campus and creates a new forum for BC and its neighbors to discuss related issues.
As part of the agreement, the city's Conservation Commission and the citizen's group Friends of the Cabot Woods will withdraw their appeal of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection's decision granting BC permission to build two fields. The University, in return, will work closely with the city and neighbors regarding landscaping and lighting issues associated with the fields and will provide landscape-design and financial assistance for the improvement of nearby Edmands Park.
The agreement also creates the Newton-Boston College Liaison Committee, a group of neighbors, city officials and BC representatives which will meet to discuss issues of mutual concern surrounding the fields and their use.
Associate Vice President for State and Community Relations Paul White hailed the agreement, saying he hopes it marks the start of a new era in the relationship between Boston College and its host community of Newton.
"This is a very significant advance in resolving the different views between the City of Newton and Boston College," said White. "We reiterate our pledge to work closely with our neighbors on this issue, and we welcome the opportunity to discuss any current or future concerns related to the fields with them through the Newton-Boston College Liaison Committee."
White also praised the contributions of Newton Mayor David Cohen to the process. "Mayor Cohen provided a great deal of leadership in resolving this issue," White said. "He was able to bring all sides together and help us arrive at a mutually agreeable resolution."
In exchange for the city and Friends of the Cabot Woods withdrawing the appeal, Boston College has agreed to help restore Edmands Park, which lies adjacent to BC property near the soccer fields. The University will direct its landscaping consultants to prepare a conceptual master plan for the park's restoration, according to the agreement.
Also, BC will contribute two separate $10,000 donations to Newton for the benefit of the park, provided that each donation is matched by the city or another entity.
The agreement also codifies commitments BC had previously made to work with neighbors on landscaping, lighting, traffic and other issues that are likely to arise during construction and operation of the fields.
Last July, the Newton Conservation Commission struck down BC's plan for the construction of a practice field and a regulation playing field on the Newton Campus. The plan was the product of lengthy discussions with neighbors, but the commission ruled that a brook in the area is actually a river and that under the state's Rivers Protection Act, any field would need to be at least 200 feet away from it. A portion of one field is within that 200-foot limit.
The decision was overturned by the DEP, which ruled that the project is exempt from the Rivers Protection Act. An appeal of that reversal has been dropped under the agreement.
In the meantime, the University -- faced with a pressing need for athletic field space -- proceeded with construction of a portion of the project that was not subject to Conservation Commission approval.
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