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Neighbors ask city to delay vote on new BC dorm; want more time to discuss community benefits

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  September 25, 2013 05:04 PM

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Some neighbors of Boston College are urging the city to delay a vote on the school's plans to build a new dormitory on Commonwealth Avenue.

The residents fear that if the project is approved, they will lose leverage in their quest to reach a long-term deal with the university to provide community benefits.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority Board is scheduled to vote Thursday night on BC’s proposal to build a six-story, 484-bed residence hall at 2150 Commonwealth Ave. The 245,000-square-foot building would also include a new space for a campus health-services facility.

Some residents who live around the university’s Chestnut Hill campus are asking the authority to hold off on the vote for at least a few weeks because residents have not yet had time to weigh in on a community-benefits agreement BC proposed a day ago.

Bruce Kline, a member of a community task force appointed by the city to help oversee BC’s development proposals, said the BRA told residents about the scheduled board vote late last week. He said that task force members then received an e-mail Tuesday with a list of development-related community benefits proposed by BC and were told the list would be discussed at a task force meeting Wednesday night.

“Out of nowhere this pops up,” Kline said Wednesday by phone.

Some task force members said they feel that BC and development authority officials are reneging on a promise to finalize community benefits sooner. And they worry that once this project is approved, the community will lose much of its leverage to negotiate.

"We need more time to consider this,” Kline said.

Reached prior to Wednesday night's meeting, BRA officials declined to comment.

BC spokesman Jack Dunn said Wednesday afternoon: "The institutional master plan was approved in 2009 by the BRA and the City of Boston, and we’re looking forward to advancing the projects."

Kline said the community benefits proposal from BC is “very vague” and does not provide some of the benefits that the community was hoping to get.

In its proposal filed with the city, BC said it hopes to begin demolition in the spring on the site’s existing administrative building, St. Thomas More Hall, which has been empty for about a year and a half. New construction would start in the summer and the building would open in the fall of 2016.

The project is one of 17 projects that make up BC’s $800 million institutional master plan, which outlines a list of new major construction and renovations the university intends to complete over the next decade.

The master plan received city approval in 2009, but projects require further approval on an individual basis before work can start.

Diane Kline, who is Bruce Kline's wife and is not a task force member, said residents were told in 2009, when the master plan was approved, that community benefits would be discussed as each project sought individual approval. But, she said no community benefit agreement has been reached.

So far, two of the projects in the master plan have been completed – a $20.4 million project finished in fall 2011 that converted a 90,000-square-foot building at 129 Lake St. into administrative offices; and a $21.1 million renovation and expansion of 2121 Commonwealth Ave., which was completed in early 2012.

Residents in Boston have voice concerns on numerous occasions that the redevelopment authority has tried to move too quickly to approve projects. In some cases, the authority has responded by delaying scheduled meetings, votes, and comment period deadlines to extend the community input.

The BC Task Force will meet Wednesday at 6:30 p.m at the Brighton Marine Health Center on Warren Street in Brighton.

Thursday's BRA board meeting is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. on the 9th floor of City Hall.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at mjrochele@gmail.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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