City Agency Submits Tough Ordinance To Control Expansion of Institutions
The Cambridge Community Development Department (CDD) will overrule objections from local universities, including Harvard, and propose a tough ordinance to sharply limit institutional expansion into residential neighborhoods, city officials said yesterday.
CDD director David Vickery said yesterday the proposed ordinance would be filed with the City Council next Monday, and would include "institutional overlay" district boundaries that have drawn criticism from the universities in recent weeks.
The overlay boundaries--lines around current concentrations of institutional development outside of which expansion into residential neighborhoods would be close to impossible-- "would cause more problems than they will solve." Lewis Armistead. Harvard's assistant vice-president for government and community relations said yesterday.
Armistead said city residents might perceive the overlay districts as tight borders, even though institutions are free to expand into non-residential districts. "Lines taken on a totally different meaning than what they were drawn for," he added.
But area residents, afraid that deletion of the overlay lines would water down the proposal and make institutional expansion easier, agreed at a meeting early last week that they would insist on the districts.
Inside the overlay districts, some expansion into residential neighborhoods is allowed, but in most cases only with a special permit. Expansion into residential neighborhoods outside the districts is "very, very tough," Vickery said.
"We won, basically," city councilor Daivd Sullivan, who helped organize community leaders to oppose deletion of the overlay districts, said yesterday.
Neighborhood residents also suggested a variety of other changes to make the ordinance even tougher--one amendment would require special permits from the Board of Zoning Appeals instead of the Planning Board, which the community leaders said would make the licenses more difficult to obtain.
The expansion ordinance will be discussed by both the Planning Board and the City Council in the weeks ahead. "I would imagine the Planning Board would make very few changes in the law," Sullivan said.
He added that there is probably enough support to ensure its passage in the City Council. "I think this is a responsible ordinance and I think the city council will recognize it as such," Sullivan said.