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Battles In The Backyard

HILL

By Laurie Hays

Never underestimate the strength of a community attempting to prevent a building from going up in their backyards. True to form, the residents of Observatory Hill this week, came up with yet another move to try and stop Radcliffe from building that athletic facility--a petition for a one-year building moratorium.

No one knows if it will work. Harvard officials said yesterday their lawyers are trying to figure out whether a moratorium would legally prevent Radcliffe from building, since, under state law, academic institutions are exempt from any building restrictions.

Even if the moratorium does not work, however, one fact is becoming obvious. The community is definitely gumming up the works.

Design plans for the athletic facility have been ready for quite a while and Radcliffe can have them anytime it wants, Joseph Hoskins, the architect who designed the building said yesterday.

In fact, Radcliffe will not be granted a building permit until the Cambridge City Council makes a decision on the downzoning petition submitted last September by over 100 Observatory Hill residents.

The big day for everyone will be December 14, the date the council has scheduled a public hearing to consider the petition. If the council approves a change in the zoning map, Harvard will be left with about one-seventh the building space it has now--which will still be enough room to build the gym.

Residents are hoping, though, that this will not be the last word. They are expecting a Cambridge planning board decision on the moratorium petition in the first week of next month.

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