The suit was filed on Oct. 23 in the state Land Court, two days after the University's proposal failed to win approval from the aldermen. Thirteen of the 24 members voted in favor of the project - which entails construction of a new student center and humanities building, and replacement of McElroy Commons - but it fell short of the two-thirds majority (16 votes) required for passage. The project was presented to the aldermen with a positive recommendation from the board's Land Use Committee.
The lawsuit challenges the board's decision as "arbitrary and capricious," and further challenges the validity of the Newton zoning ordinance as it applies to the Middle Campus Project.
Last week's vote followed months of discussion concerning the proposal among University, city and neighborhood representatives. Boston College administrators said the University would now pursue other avenues to gain clearance for the project, which they said was designed so it would best serve the University community. The project would also benefit the City of Newton and the neighborhoods adjacent to the campus, they added, and several changes were made to the project's design in response to neighbors' concerns.
Traffic patterns and delivery areas were redesigned and a foot bridge was added to the Upper Campus plans, for example, to minimize any possible congestion and enhance safety on Beacon Street, Hammond Street and College Road. The University made assurances that no events would be held at the new facility for which tickets would be sold to the general public, and that Middle Campus parking would be available for evening visitors. Among other responses, Boston College also extended an offer not to build institutional buildings on the BC property south of Beacon Street, adjacent to Hammond Street, for 15 years.
"It was a disappointing result," said Vice President for Administration John T. Driscoll last week. "We felt we had worked hard to address all reasonable concerns of the city and the neighbors regarding our proposal. At the same time, we are committed to the program described in the Middle Campus Project. It answers a great need for faculty and student offices, meeting rooms and classrooms.
"Obviously, we were hoping to have a favorable resolution of these issues with the Board of Aldermen," Driscoll continued. "Unfortunately, it would appear that this decision makes that unlikely at this point."
Associate Counsel Joseph Herlihy said the University's prospects in Land Court are strong. "We are confident that we can establish and prove the allegations we make in the complaint," he said.
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