Draft University Growth Regulations Stiffened
Cambridge's fight against Harvard expansion has had its share of high-pitched drama--Saundra Graham capturing the platform at commencement to denounce Harvard's growth into the Riverside neighborhood, city councilor Alfred E. Vellucci demanding that Harvard Yard be paved over for a parking lot, the noisy protest meetings that met the University's plans for a Radcliffe Quad gymnasium.
But the most effective controls on Harvard and other large city institutions may come this winter from the Community Development Department in less dramatic form--a thick wad of regulations and charts that will make it all but impossible for universities to grow without city o.k.
The difference is power--not until last year did the city government gain control over the growth of non-profit institutions. And now, with half the city tied up by non-taxable institutional uses and neighborhoods slowly shrinking before the onslaught of labs, dormitories and offices, city officials are preparing to exercise that power with a vengeance.
The latest proposal circulating inside the Community Development Department would:
* prevent any expansion at all into most residential neighborhoods of the city; and
* make it very difficult for Harvard, MIT and other institutions to build new offices, laboratories or other large-scale facilities even within traditional campus boundaries.
In addition, institutions would have to replace any housing destroyed by their new facilities.
"I think it's a real step in the right direction," councilor David Sullivan, who drafted the ordinance giving Cambridge the power to control institutional growth, said yesterday.
Sullivan, who had been critical of earlier proposals for allowing city institutions too many loopholes, said the latest draft, by banning outright expansion into a number of neighborhoods, "makes residential areas significantly more secure."
Harvard officials, who have been meeting with Community Development Department staffers to discuss the issues, said yesterday they would not comment until an ordinance was released in final form, which may take several months.
The proposals must still be drafted into an ordinance by the Community Development Department.
When it reaches the council chambers, the ordinance is likely to find a warm reception. Though Harvard and MIT have had their backers in the past, the fiscal crunch caused by Proposition 2 1/2 seems to have stiffened opposition to the two schools--and anyone else who pays little in taxes. One of the few unanimous votes of the past year came on a proposal to tax city universities.
"It's a responsible ordinance--I think it will get through the city council," Sullivan sid. If it does, Harvard and MIT may finally run up against a legal wall harder to surmount than the fiery rhetoric and dramatic protests of years past.