City Council May Veto Zoning Bill

The Cambridge City Council last night voted, five to four, to table a bill that would declare a one-year moratorium on all building construction in Cambridge by non-profit, tax-exempt institutions, including Harvard University.

David Vicary, assistant city manager, said last night the vote to table the bill is probably tantamount to a veto because a new state law limits to 90 days the time in which a bill can be enacted after its introduction in the city council. The bill, also known as the Reisman petition, will become void if the council does not pass it at its next meeting on June 12.


The bill "obviously lacks the votes to pass," Vicary said last night, adding it has suffered from hostile politicking since the last council meeting, when the requisite two-thirds of the council supported it.

The city-wide moratorium bill stems from a petition residents of the Observatory Hill section of Cambridge submitted to the City Council earlier this year, demanding that the council halt construction in that neighborhood by several non-profit institutions, including Harvard


At that time, the council passed a one-year moratorium on construction in a limited part of Observatory Hill that excluded the area in which Harvard planned to build a gymnasium. It did, however, temporarily halt construction of the gym.

City Councilor Saundra T. Graham said during last night's meeting, "Cambridge is already 52-per-cent tax-exempt, and we need to pass some kind of bill preventing further expansion into Cambridge by these institutions."

Commenting on last night's vote to table the Reisman petition, as well as what appeared to be deferential treatment paid Harvard when the council passed the earlier, selective moratorium bill, Graham said after the meeting, "I guess some of the councilors have some special feeling of connection to Harvard, and don't want to restrict its building plans.

"I want to restrict the hell out of it," she added.

City Councilor Alfred E. Vellucci said last night he would vote against the city-wide moratorium, although he supported the Observatory Hill moratorium.

"Harvard and MIT have been dominating this entire city for 300 years," Velluci said, adding, "Now we've got a whole city full of young people of all races here, and we can't deprive them of churches and art centers just to get even with Harvard and MIT."

In other business, the council discussed charges that appeared in last week's Cambridge Chronicle that all nine members of the council accepted illegal campaign donations from city employees during the 1977 elections.

Councilor Kevin P. Crane '74 said last night he thought the charges were "rubbish," adding, "everyone relied in good faith on the decision of the Convention '77 committee, which was that anyone could make campaign donations to a candidate's election committee," although city employees could not give money to incumbent candidates.

Cambridge Mayor Thomas H. Danehy, who was included in the charges, said with a smile during a recess last night, "My wife is preparing to do without me for a year when they send me to Leavenworth Penitentiary. Fuckin ridiculous! One of the charges against me concerns a donation by my 81-year-old mother. Another concerns a 73-year-old cousin. It's hard to take all this very seriosly," he added