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Let it stand

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State Supreme Court clears way for campus construction

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has let stand a decision by the State Court of Appeals to deny the City of Newton's application for further appellate review regarding the middle campus construction project first proposed by Boston College in 1996. Following the court's November 26 decision, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, announced that a committee of faculty, administrators, and students will review the project plans and assess their fit with Boston College's current needs and new construction standards.

Under the original design, three interconnected buildings would replace McElroy Commons in the southwest corner of middle campus, including a new humanities building and a consolidated student center.

Litigation over the project began in 1996, when Boston College brought suit against the City of Newton following the refusal by the Board of Aldermen to grant a permit for construction. Although the project had won early approval from state and local agencies and from the aldermen's own Land Use Committee, it had failed to receive the required two-thirds majority vote of the board. Boston College filed suit in the Massachusetts Land Court, appealing the aldermen's decision, and a trial took place in 1998. In its legal argument, the University cited the state's Dover Amendment, which prohibits municipalities from regulating and restricting "the use of land or structures for religious purposes or for educational purposes" except by "reasonable regulations."

In January of 2001, Land Court Justice Karyn F. Scheier ruled in favor of the University, stating that the city's "zoning regulations may not reasonably be applied to the middle campus project," and that the Newton Board of Aldermen's denial of BC's petition to build the middle campus project "is legally untenable under the Dover Amendment and therefore beyond the authority of the Board."

The Newton Aldermen voted to appeal the decision, which was upheld in August 2003 by the Massachusetts Appeals Court; one month later, the board opted to apply for further judicial review by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

According to the Land Court's decision, the University and the city must still come to terms on the availability of parking as a result of the project, before construction permits can be obtained.

Public affairs staff

 

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