Monday, April 02, 2007

Baseball Field? Or Stadium?

At the March 20, 2007 meeting of the BC Task Force, the BC presenters (and their planning associates from Sasaki) repeatedly referred to the baseball thing they wanted to build on the former Archdiocese property as a baseball "field," despite the fact that it would include 2000-seats for spectators. The same terminology of "field" was used for the 500-seat softball "field" and the no-seat "multipurpose-field."

A member of the public queried them directly on this linguistic usage, to which they replied (approximately): "You say stadium, I say field. OK."

A simple definition of stadium found on the web is: "A large, usually open structure for sports events with tiered seating for spectators." Their proposal sure sounds like a stadium to any reasonable person with basic knowledge of the english language.

Why did they use the term "baseball field" instead of the obvious "baseball stadium"?

The site of their proposed baseball stadium/field is classified by the underlying (or "base") zoning as "CPS" (Conservation Protection Subdistrict):

Here is an extract of the zoning from Article 51's Table A, where the letters under column "CPS" refer to "A" (allowed), "C" ("conditional"-ly allowed), and "F" (forbidden):

Even if BC were to claim that the former Archdiocesan property were to be now included as part of the BC institutional subdistrict overlay (a highly questionable assertion and an involved subject that will be addressed in future postings!!!), it wouldn't matter: Article 51, Table C, which spells out the zoning for BC's institutional subdistrict, has the same use limitations on "stadium" versus "grounds for sports, private."

See the obvious thing here? A "stadium" is "F" (or "Forbidden") in a CPS zoned site (or BC institutional subdistrict), while "grounds for sports, private" (fenced-in field) is "C" (or "Conditionally-allowed").

The BC planners and their associates appear to be deliberately using the term "field" instead of "stadium" in order to slip a forbidden use under the zoning code through a conditionally-allowed use.

Instead of deliberately obfuscating the issue, BC's planners should be straight-forward with the BRA, the Zoning Board, and the A-B community by using the terms "baseball stadium" and "softball stadium," since the term stadium is a specific and technical one. The term has a clear meaning within the zoning for the site, and has direct consequences on the allowed uses for the site. Since their upcoming IMPNF (and project PNFs) will generally require regulatory approval of the Zoning Board, this means that their proposals are fundamentally related to zoning issues. They should use the zoning term "stadium" correctly in their public filings and presentations to the public. And I hope they are up-front in the future by declaring that they will need to seek a zoning variance to build a baseball stadium on the site.

For everyone in the Allston-Brighton community: we should always use the term "stadium" when referring to the proposed baseball and softball construction projects, and we should hold BC to that standard, too.

See this previous post for a figure which shows where these various "fields" are proposed to be sited.

The BRA's website has the zoning code including maps.

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