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It's settled

Judge's decision gives the University
the go-ahead to build in Newton

Architect's sketchFollowing 24 days of trial and 22 months of consideration, the Massachusetts Land Court has ruled in favor of Boston College in its appeal of a decision by the City of Newton's Board of Aldermen to block plans for new buildings on the Middle Campus.

The opinion, issued January 22 by Justice Karyn F. Scheier, allows the University to proceed with construction of three interconnected buildings, which include a new academic center and a new student center alongside College Road.

The academic center, to be named the Monan Humanities Center in honor of former University president and current chancellor J. Donald Monan, SJ, will provide 223 offices for faculty and staff in the humanities, as well as lecture and seminar rooms.

The student center will be built on the site of 50-year-old McElroy Commons, as well as on unoccupied land adjacent to College Road. It will include an expanded bookstore, dining facilities, offices for student groups, performing arts practice rooms, and an underground parking garage.

The buildings have been designed in the English Collegiate Gothic architectural style of Gasson and Bapst halls. One-third of each facility will be submerged below street level to lessen the height. The University is now reviewing plans for the project, originally estimated at $90 million.

Judge Scheier's opinion is considered an important ruling on behalf of Boston College's right to build on its own campus. As an application of the state's Dover Amendment, established some 50 years ago to protect schools and churches from unreasonable zoning restrictions, the decision may also have legal implications for religious and nonprofit educational institutions elsewhere in Newton and throughout the state. In her decision, Judge Scheier concluded that Newton's highly restrictive zoning regulations on height, setbacks, floor-area ratio, buffer zones, and parking were "unreasonable as applied to the Middle Campus Project," and that the denial of BC's petition to build was "legally untenable under the Dover Amendment."

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, welcomed the Land Court's decision. "We are delighted by the judge's ruling," said Leahy. "I hope that this decision brings an end to a long and costly process. Boston College looks forward to constructing much-needed facilities on its land that are appropriate for the campus and the neighborhood."

Jack Dunn

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