City Delays Zoning Petitions

The Cambridge Ordinance Committee last night referred two down-zoning petitions, including one for the controversial Observatory Hill site, back to the Cambridge City Council, sparking surprise and concern from Harvard officials present at the hearing.

The move was prompted by City Councilor David Clem's discovery earlier this week that time limitations have expired for taking action on the petitions. Harvard and City officials said last night a building permit for Radcliffe's proposed athletic facility has not yet been granted.

Harvard lawyers from the firm of Ropes and Gray, however, will begin to review the legalities of the delay, Donald C. Moulton, assistant vice-president for community affairs said last night.

Under a 1975 state law, public hearings to consider down-zoning petitions must be held within 65 days after the council has submitted the petition to the planning board. The Council also must act within 90 days of the first public hearing.

The Observatory Hill down-zoning petition fits neither of these requirements, City Councilor David Clem, chairman of the Ordinance Committee, said last night.


Moulton protested the delay during last nights meeting and requested more time for Harvard to review legalities before the council begins processing the petitions. The residents of Observatory Hill first submitted the petition in September.

Residents last night, however, welcomed the delay after they submitted a request to table the petition. They said they hoped for more dialogue with the University to work out potential agreements.

President Horner met with six Observatory Hill residents Monday to discuss redesigning the gym and other buildings, Topliffe Sawyer, president of Neighborhood Nine community action group said yesterday.

Sawyer added that the meeting was profitable and he hopes that Harvard officials will be present at future meetings. He cited the need for open communication with the University, rather than Harvard always taking an adversary position.

The second down-zoning petition is to rezone the Mellon, Oxford and Wendell Street area which is also owned by Harvard.

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