Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two Brighton Residents Sue City Over Boston College Expansion

Two Brighton residents, Patrick Galvin and Mark Alford, have jointly sued the City of Boston over its approval of Boston College's expansion plans into the former St. John's Seminary land purchased by BC in 2004-7 from the Archdiocese of Boston.

The suit was filed in Superior Court Thursday afternoon. It names three defendants, all official governmental bodies of the City of Boston: the Boston Redevelopment Authority, whose Board approved BC's Institutional Master Plan in January 2009; the Zoning Commission, which approved the IMP in May 2009; and the BC Task Force, an official advisory body to the BRA Board (and appointed by Mayor Thomas Menino), who wrote a letter to the BRA Board generally supporting most of the elements in BC's IMP.

Mayor Menino was not named as a defendant in the suit, which is a bit surprising (to this non-lawyer) given that he also had to approve BC's IMP. He objected to several details of the IMP as initially approved by the Zoning Commission; the ZC later approved modifications, and then Mayor Menino formally signed off in June 2009.

The plaintiffs own property on Lake Street abutting the former St. John's Seminary land BC refers to as their "Brighton Campus." BC's approved IMP calls for construction on that land of athletics facilities (baseball stadium, softball stadium, support building, tennis courts), an auditorium, museum and new building for their fine arts department, and a parking garage. A related Article 80 large project at 188-196 Foster Street (also part of the land bought from the Archdiocese of Boston) to build housing for BC's School of Theology and Ministry was submitted by the Jesuit society and approved in November 2008 by the BRA Board, although it was initially included in BC's IMP. The Zoning Commission changed the zoning at the property as part of its June 2009 IMP approval process.

No monetary figure for damages is specified in the suit.

Image of the scales of justice in Haarlem, The Netherlands by lant_70 provided through a Creative Commons license.

UPDATE: The Boston Globe now has a story on it.


JohnT said...

Newton sued BC over development a few years ago and lost. Their case was stronger than this one.

Michael Pahre said...

The Newton lawsuit dragged out for many years (seven?) and BC eventually abandoned construction of the building.

Regardless of the merits of last week's lawsuit, it could take quite some time to work its way through the courts.

ballgame said...

The Newton project was originally proposed (and rejected by Newton) in 1997. If I remember correctly, BC initiated the lawsuit due to Newton's unlawful rejection of the plans and won, which would have allowed construction to commence. However, lawsuits continued on numerous unsuccessful appeals from Newton as the city lost on each level all the way to the state SJC. In that multiple year process (I think you are right it was about 7), BC had to make alternative arrangements to meet immediate needs (adding a scaled-down building to lower campus that was originally destined for Middle Campus and one less space for a dorm now). Then, right about the time of the final decision (again in BC's favor), the archdiocese land became available and everything changed with the new opportunity.

Michael, what is your opinion on the lawsuit and its merits?

I wish I could say that I am surprised at the lawsuit, but I really am not. All this will do is add unnecessary costs and delays to the projects and legal costs to the city. There have been many months of meeting and community discussion. BC has made many concessions and I don't see any willingness to negotiate by certain neighbors so sending it back to discussions will accomplish little as the discussion should now shift to community benefits/PILOT/etc. Unlike the Newton project, I highly doubt BC will be able to find an alternate solution to meet its needs this time so Brighton will need to live with the current situation for several more years if this has to go through the courts.

Interesting to note though, the building proposed in 1997 for Middle Campus will be built as part of this IMP.