The Cambridge City Council voted unanimously on Monday to challenge Harvard's exemption from city zoning ordinances by requesting from the Massachusetts legislature the power to control University expansion.
The council sent the legislature a home-rule petition asking it to revoke the exemption it granted Harvard from a city ordinance last year. The House counsel decided in that case that special provisions in the state constitution prevented the city from regulating Harvard.
"This has a dual purpose. We would like to force a court decision laying out just how much protection Harvard has under the state constitution," councilor David Sullivan, who drafted the measure, said Monday.
If the state Supreme Court decides the state constitution protects the University, Sullivan added, state legislators will quickly begin the second stage by attempting to repeal that section of the constitution.
Harvard officials announced before the vote that they would not oppose the effort at the city council level. Louis Armistead, acting assistant vice-president for Government and Community Affairs, refused to rule out the possibility that Harvard might lobby against the bill on Beacon Hill, however.
All other city institutions will come under Cambridge zoning regulations on density and use of institutionally-owned land that will go into effect later this winter.
"Recent history has demonstrated that Harvard College poses the most severe threat to the interests of the city," Sullivan said.
If Harvard's exemption is overturned, Cambridge could move to block University expansion into surrounding neighborhoods.
Deciding the City's Foreign Policy And Other Weighty MattersQUESTION #1 "Shall the city of Cambridge be authorized to tax real estate located in the city and owned by
Council Pushes for Domestic Partner BenefitsThe Cambridge City Council last night made the first move toward reclaiming its power to grant domestic partnerships marriage benefits,
Council Approves DeductionA measure increasing the tax exemption for city residents who own their own homes may lead to slightly lower tax
A New Policy Of ContainmentAfter a series of last-minute brushes with death, a bill that gives Cambridge the power to regulate Harvard expansion passed
Institutional Expansion Law to Limit Density, UseA Cambridge ordinance designed to limit institutional expansion will probably control both the use and density of institution-owned buildings, a
City May Float Bond for ConstructionCambridge city manager James L. Sullivan told the City Council last night that he would ask it to approve a