City councilors charged this week that MIT, by purchasing townhouses in the Cambridgeport neighborhood, has violated a nonbinding agreement not to buy property in the area.
MIT officials responded that the agreement has expired, and that their purchase of eight condominiums on the corner of Sydney St. and Putnam Ave, is not restricted by any current legislation.
The controversy stems from a more than three-year attempt to rezone Cambridgeport as one of the four city districts targeted for redevelopment. Conflicting interests between neighborhood residents and MIT have prevented a compromise plan. The city council, reflecting this split, has rejected numerous zoning plan for the area and has not even taken up the matter this year.
In March, 1980, the council passed a nonbinding resolution stating that MIT should not buy property in Cambridgeport until the council dispensed with the rezoning of the area.
A week later, MIT signed an agreement promising not to purchase property in the area for one year. The current flap revolves primarily around which document is recognized.
"MIT has a moral obligation to follow the [council] agreement," City Councilor David Sullivan said earlier this week.
"It was my understanding that MIT would not build in the area until the council finished with the zoning," said Councilor David Wylie.
But Walter Milne, special assistant to the president at MIT, disagreed with the councilors' statement. "We said in March 1980, that we would acquire no acquire no property for a year, while the planning board study [to some the area] was underway," he said, adding that "that agreement ended in March of this year."
The long-running conflict in Cambridgeport concerns the type of development allowed under the new zoning. MIT devised plans that would preserve a substantial part of the area for office, research and other institutional uses.
A neighborhood group called the Simplex Steering Committee proposed a zoning plan which would include many more residential areas, cut down on the institutional uses of the land, and restrict all development from some sections.
Milne said MIT had a right to proceed because the council has failed to pass either proposal of to develop a compromise resolution.
Some councilors accused MIT of holding out against a compromise so that the present zoning, which they said permits virtually any development in the area, will remain intact.
"MIT has managed to prevent whatever councilors it has under its control from being in a compromising mood," Wylie charged.
But he said MIT isn't solely to blame. He faulted the Simplex Steering Committee as well for a failure to concede any points to MIT.
No action has been taken on the Cambridgeport zoning this year, and no one contacted this week thought a solution would be reached in the foreseeable future.
Wylie said the compromise must begin in the community, not the council. "If the community would get together on this," he said, "the councilors would too."