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Residents Request Building Moratorium

Observatory Hill Group Takes Steps to Stop Gym

By Laurie Hays

Residents opposing construction of the proposed Radcliffe athletic facility on Observatory Hill filed a petition with the city of Cambridge last week requesting a one year moratorium on building in the area.

The Cambridge City Council must approve the petition, but the request may go into effect today with an official announcement in the Cambridge Chronicle of a public hearing scheduled by the Cambridge Planning Board to consider the petition on January 3.

City officials, however, yesterday expressed some reservations as to whether the petition will legally prevent Radcliffe from constructing the gym because academic institutions in Massachusetts are exempt from building restrictions.

Harvard Concern

Harvard is "very concerned" about the moratorium, Donald C. Moulton, assistant vice-president for community affairs said yesterday. He declined further comment saying that he has not yet read the petition, although he has requested a copy.

There are no precedents in Cambridge for moratoriums affecting educational institutions, David M. Vickery, assistant to the city council said yesterday.

Vickery added that the purpose of the moratorum is to re-examine the impact of further building on the Observatory Hill neighborhood.

"No matter which way Harvard goes, either in requesting a building permit or in observing the moratorium request, I think we've got the situation boxed in," John Riseman, one of the ten residents who signed the petition said yesterday.

If the moratorium does not legally prevent Radcliffe from building the gym, residents hope Radcliffe will share their concern and not "simply concern itself with legalities," Riseman said.

City Councilor David Clem has scheduled a council hearing for Dec. 14 to consider the down-zoning petition submitted last September by an Observatory Hill neighborhood group.

The down-zoning petition would not prevent construction of the athletic facility since the design conforms to the strictest zoning requirements.

Clem said he does not think the council will pass the down-zoning petition which requires seven votes. He added that he is planning to propose a compromise plan to provide a solution to the controversy.

Clem said he believes the moratorium petition would be a "moot" request if a solution is found in December.

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