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City postpones vote on BC dorm project after residents seek more time to weigh community benefits

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  September 26, 2013 03:00 PM

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City officials postponed a vote on Boston College's plans to build a new dormitory on Commonwealth Avenue after some neighbors and a city councilor ask for more time to weigh a community-benefits offer.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority’s board of directors had scheduled to vote Thursday night on BC’s proposal to construct a six-story, 245,000 square-foot building at 2150 Commonwealth Ave., which would house 484 dormitory beds and space for campus health services.

The vote has been pushed back to the next scheduled BRA board meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 8, city officials said.

Residents feared that if the project was approved by the board, they will lose leverage in their ongoing quest to reach a long-term deal with the university to provide community benefits.

Neighbors of the Chestnut Hill campus asked city officials to delay the project vote at least two weeks so they could have more time to assess a proposal for a community-benefits agreement that BC and BRA officials unveiled to residents via email Wednesday morning.

“Out of nowhere this pops up,” said Bruce Kline, a member of a community task force appointed by the city to help oversee BC’s development proposals.

At a community meeting Wednesday night, Councilor Mark Ciommo, who represents Allston and Brighton, called for a delay in the vote.

“There’s no time for discussion,” Ciommo said. “It’s wrong and disrespectful to this task force.”

Ciommo and task force members said they do not want to delay the project. Most residents support the dorm because it would create more on-campus housing, and many neighbors said they appreciate that BC drafted the list of community benefits.

“But we can do more and we can do better,” task force member Rosie Hanlon said of the community benefits list BC has proposed.

Among the benefits BC is offering, according to filings, are scholarships for local students and creation of a fund for community improvements, including parks and projects related to transportation.

On Wednesday night, officials with the BRA and BC apologized for not getting the draft of community benefits to residents sooner, but tried to convince residents that the board vote needed to happen Thursday night

Tom Keady, vice president of governmental relations and community affairs at BC, said “the clock is ticking” on the project.

“If we do not move this project forward [Thursday] at the BRA, it doesn’t happen in 2016,” he said Wednesday night, adding later that postponing Thursday's vote would push the dorm opening back a year to 2017.

During the meeting, Keady and BRA chief planner Kairos Shen each described different understandings of at least one point the proposed community benefits list -- over how many scholarships would be granted annually by BC.

Residents called out the discrepancy and said it was a prime example of why the wanted more time to discuss and clarify the drafted community benefits.

Ciommo and others also said that the treatment of the BC Task Force is not consistent with a community advisory task force in Allston that has had months and numerous meetings with Harvard University and BRA officials to work out a community benefits agreement related to development of Harvard’s campus in Allston.

The BC Task Force has scheduled its next meeting for Monday, Sept. 30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Brighton Marine Health Center on Warren Street in Brighton, city officials said.

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

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