Monday, September 17, 2007

Harvard Sends Allston a Big New Year's Present: Professessional Technical Assistance

In tune with the Jewish New Year's holiday Rosh Hashanah, Harvard announced in a press release, made along with Massachusetts Environmental Protection Act Office, that they have agreed to a "Special Review Procedure" to deal with each and every project Harvard will propose to build as part of their Allston development. Harry Mattison announced this tonight on his allston02134 blog following the meeting of the Harvard Allston Task Force.

The press release gives a sketchy description of this Special Review Procedure:
The Special Review Procedure for the Harvard-Allston project requires Interim Updates every three years. It also requires every project-specific filing to go through an extensive public comment process.

For the purpose of that public comment process, the Special Review Procedure establishes a Citizens Advisory Committee, consisting of the City of Boston’s Allston-Brighton Task Force [i.e., Harvard Allston Task Force], which serves as an advisory group to the Boston Redevelopment Authority for its review of the university’s institutional master planning process, and several additional members to be named by the Secretary.

In addition, Harvard has agreed to provide financial resources to allow the CAC to retain professional expertise for the purpose of reviewing technical planning documents on issues pertaining to transportation, energy, and air quality produced through the Special Review Procedure, giving the CAC the ability to comment on proposed development that could affect the quality of life in the Allston neighborhood.
This sounds to me like Harvard has pledged to fund independent peer review of transportation, energy, and air quality, and that the Citizens Advisory Committee (the Harvard Allston Task Force plus a couple more people to be named by the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs) will be the "client" for the work.

While the details need to be filled out, and the process worked out, this appears to be a big gift, presumably made along with some horse-trading with the Secretary. The Secretary announced earlier today that he is planning to approve Harvard's request for a Phase One Waiver to avoid completing a full environmental review of the science complex project.

Over here in Brighton, we have a similar need for technical expertise in order to analyze the transportation and environmental elements of Boston College's upcoming Institutional Master Plan. Let us hope that BC can follow Harvard's generous lead, and provide a similar present before the Gregorian New Year.

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