Noise Annoys Residents Near Divinity School

Residents near the Harvard Divinity School complained yesterday that landscapers preparing the school for Commencement violated an agreement to limit noise to certain hours.

Anna Potter, who lives at 60 Francis St. said yesterday that landscaping machines such as leaf blowers, large riding mowers and weed whackers, "each one louder than the next," make loud noises early in the morning.

Potter said she is "on the verge" of filing a formal complaint with the Cambridge Zoning Board.

"The Divinity School is out of control over here," Potter said. The school's actions are "dictated by the needs of grass as opposed to the needs of the community."

Divinity School officials promised neighbors several months ago that they would not work early in the morning or on weekends.

"We originally complained they were coming at 7 a.m. Saturday, then they agreed not to come until 9. But with Commencement, they went back to doing whatever they pleased," Potter said.

She noted that the landscapers, employees at Cambridge Landscape Company, do obey legal guidelines, which prohibit noise in residential areas between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.

But Potter said, "the Divinity School will disrupt this neighborhood however they want until the law says, 'Sorry, you can do that."

Neighbor Joellyn M. Craig echoed Potter's complaints.

"They've started before 9 every day since last Thursday [working for Commencement]," she said. "Occasionally they'll be here on a Saturday before 9.

Neighbors also questioned whether all of the landscaping activity is necessary.

"I think me and two high school kids could do it in a week, Lawrence M. Dooley said."Look at Harvard Divinity School's Landscaping budget, then look at the lawn. They're getting ripped off big time."

Potter said John F. Scannel, facilities superintendent at the Divinity School, has told her the landscaping work had to be done early in the morning because "it's too noisy to do while they are having school."'

Scannel could not be reached for comment.

But other officials said they have done their best to address residents' complaints. Timothy D. Cross, associate dean for finance and administration at the Divinity School, said he told the landscapers that the early morning noise "should not have happened."

Cross said the agreement he made with neighbors several months ago amounted to "pretty significant restrictions on the hours that the landscapers are allowed to work."

"We do everything we can to be good neighbors," said Cross. "I encourage neighbors to contact me if there are these or other problems."

Another neighbor Martha P. Kim called Cross efforts comendable.

"I've found the Divinity School to be more than accommodating and concerned," she said.

Kim complained a few years ago about the noise from trucks delivering food to the school cafeteria, which were leaving their engines idling for long periods of time. Cross solved the problem, she said.

But Dooley said idling noise is the least of the problems created by the trucks. He says trucks block traffic and create potholes in the street.

"It's a one way one lane residential street, and tractor trailers that come every day are killing it," Dooley said.

Divinity School neighbors are not the only Francis St. residents to complain about noise from Harvard facilities. A couple living at 21 Francis St. field suit in April in a effort to force the University to address noise coming from the Biological Laboratory building at 16 Divinity Avenue.