Wednesday, January 28, 2009

BC Task Force Meets in Secret and Relents on 150-Bed Dormitory

The Boston Redevelopment Authority's Boston College Task Force will recommend to the BRA Board approval of 150-bed dormitory on the former St. John's Seminary land purchased by BC in 2004-7, while recommending against an additional 350-bed dormitory on the property. They will further recommend that the BRA Board require that a different site be adopted for the 350-bed dorm, rather than allow it to be re-proposed by the university after conducting a site study.

The recommendations were crafted as the result of a secret meeting held by the task force last week -- and through subsequent email activity and phone calls -- according to several members of the task force.

Such meetings -- unannounced and not open to the public -- in order to deliberate, vote, and craft recommendations on various elements of BC's Institutional Master Plan, appear to be in violation of the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law for municipalities (MGL 39, Section 23B), according to an opinion issued on June 1, 2007 by Suffolk County District Attorney Janis Noble. (In the statute, the district attorney is charged with its enforcement.) The DA's opinion rejected the BRA legal counsel's arguments that the task force should not be subject to the law.

Several members of the task force have repeatedly stated during the past year-and-a-half that they would not follow the OML, relying on the BRA legal counsel's position instead of the DA's opinion.

The task force's position on the 150-bed dorm is a concession by the task force from their previous positions in a series of letters they wrote between 2004 and September 2008. The recommendations are described in a letter released by the task force in advance of their presentation to the BRA Board Thursday afternoon, part of which reads:
  1. Working with the BRA, the Task Force and the community, Boston College must house the remaining 350 students not accommodated by its current housing proposals on its traditional campus. The Task Force pointed to multiple sites for additional housing on the traditional campus (page 13 of our letter of September 5, 2008). A majority of the Task Force accepts the College’s plan to locate a 150-bed dormitory on the Brighton campus as a means to house all of its undergraduate students on-campus by 2018. The Task Force recognizes that this reverses our long-standing position on housing students on the so-called Brighton campus; we also recognize widespread community opposition to this proposal. In making this most difficult concession, the Task Force believes that the College should act decisively to forge common ground with the community by accepting an affirmative obligation to house 350 more students on its traditional campus.
  2. Given the clear sensitivity to housing students on the so-called Brighton campus, the proposed residence hall must be a “dry dorm” where alcohol is prohibited.
  3. The siting of the 150-bed dormitory needs to be sensitive to the landscape and physical features of the former Archdiocesan grounds. The historic stonewall, for example, needs to be preserved.
BC has resisted preservation of those stone walls along Commonwealth Avenue because they instead wish to have the roadway widened in order to allow for the "Boston College" T station (the terminus of the Green Line "B" train) to be moved into the center of the roadway.

Image of "The Secret And Magic Circle Meeting Begins" by :Duncan provided through a Creative Commons license.

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