Middle Campus Trial Delayed Until Dec. 1

By Michael Seele
Chronicle Editor

The Massachusetts Land Court has granted a request by the City of Newton to delay the start of the Middle Campus Project trial by three weeks.

The trial, which had been scheduled to begin Nov. 10, will start on Dec. 1, said Joseph Herlihy, associate general counsel for the University.

"The city's motion for the extension outlined a number of reasons why the city needed more time to prepare for trial, including what it termed 'staffing problems beyond its control,'" said Herlihy. "These problems included the recent resignation of the assistant city solicitor, but the city's present difficulties stem more from lack of early attention to this matter than to any recent occurrences.

"The University's complaint was filed over a year ago, but nevertheless the city sought assistance from outside counsel only within the past few months," Herlihy said.

He added that the University was prepared to move ahead on Nov. 10, but that opposing the city's motion would have been "unproductive."

In the trial, Boston College will appeal the October 1996 decision of the Newton Board of Aldermen to deny a special permit for the Middle Campus Project, which proposes construction of three buildings and the demolition of McElroy Commons. It would provide the University with a new student center and an academic building, Monan Hall.

BC is appealing on two main legal grounds, said Herlihy: that the project is, in fact, worthy of a special permit based on its merits - the denial, therefore, being arbitrary and capricious; and that the city's current zoning restrictions applying to Middle Campus are unlawful.

The University has retained the Boston law firm of Goodwin, Procter & Hoar to present its case. The trial is expected to take about five days, though a decision may not come for a few months after its conclusion, Herlihy said.

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