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New day in Court

Newton challenges BC's legal victory

Newton's Board of Aldermen has voted to appeal the Massachusetts Land Court decision that would have ended a two-year legal battle and cleared the way for Boston College to construct three interconnected buildings--including a new student center and a humanities building--on the present site of McElroy Commons and its adjoining parking lot.

The city's appeal will be directed at Judge Karyn Schier's January 22 ruling that Newton's zoning restrictions regarding BC's Middle Campus Project are "unreasonable and therefore invalid" under the state's Dover Amendment. The details of Newton's argument will not be known until a full brief is filed in mid-June.

"We regret that Newton's Board of Aldermen has voted to appeal and prolong an adversarial relationship," said Boston College's Director of Public Affairs Jack Dunn. "This is a project that meets the University's needs and the neighborhood's concerns that is being delayed by political pettiness at the expense of Boston College's students and faculty and of the taxpayers of Newton."

In response to Newton's notice of appeal, BC has asked the State Supreme Court for direct appellate review of the Land Court decision. If the petition is accepted, a final decision could be rendered by spring 2002. Otherwise, the case could spend as much as two years in lower appellate court and then a year in the State Supreme Court, according to BC legal sources. The delay on the project to date is estimated to have added $30 million in inflationary costs to the original construction price tag of $90 million, set in 1996 when the building permit was first sought.

"What is at stake here is not just our buildings, which both the judge and accrediting agencies have confirmed are needed, but our ability to manage and improve Boston College on land that we own," said Dunn. "We fully expect to prevail on appeal and continued appeal if that is necessary."

Ben Birnbaum

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