Thursday, January 03, 2008

Did Anybody Else Get Coal in Their Stocking?

Just before Christmas, the Allston-Brighton TAB published an op-ed piece by me about Boston College's history since 1993 of regulatory filings with the Boston Redevelopment Authority right before the holiday season ("BC delivers lump of coal to Brighton’s Christmas stocking").

The result of such inopportune timing? The already short public comment periods are effectively shortened by everyone's distraction over seemingly less unimportant things -- like lighting candles on Hannukah, shopping for Christmas presents, attending Christmas holiday parties, celebrating Kwanzaa, singing Auld Lang Syne on New Year's Eve, worshipping at the college football bowl game altar with an almond-covered cheese ball, etc.

This holiday season has continued the trend: Boston College filed its institutional master plan with the BRA on December 5, 2007, followed up by an advertisement apparently in the Boston Herald on December 10. The 30-day public comment period following that was voluntarily extended 15 days by BC (quite likely as a result of a request by the city); it was extended another 12 days as a result of a request made by the BC Task Force at their December 18 meeting.

It's quite obvious to many people -- from the neighbors to many City Councilors and even at least one city employee -- that there are parts of Article 80 in the city's zoning code that need serious overhaul.

One short-coming of Article 80 is how ineffectively the statute can respond to large-scale institutional expansion projects (such as Boston College's or, especially, Harvard University's in Allston). Thirty-day public comment periods, which cannot be extended by the city without voluntary action by the institution, are demonstrably inadequate when dealing with these large and complicated master plans. Article 80 is being stretched to its breaking point because it wasn't designed with such massive projects in mind.

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