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Court Hears Debate on Bill To Limit City Condominiums

By William E. Mckibben

Opponents of the city's condominium control ordinance argued in Middlesex District Court yesterday that the law represents a "confiscation of property."

Lawyers for the city and for individual tenants replied that the statute, which requires developers to obtain a permit before converting apartments to condominiums, was passed in the face of an emergency housing shortage and did not directly govern property relationships.

The Cambridge City Council passed the ordinance last summer, in an attempt to slow the rate of condominium conversion in the city. Under the law, the Rent Control Board can decide which rental units in the city may be converted into condominiums.

In the two hours of oral arguments, attorneys for the plaintiff called the law a "mammoth piece of legislation...awesome in its magnitude," and complained that property owners were deprived of their right to dispose of their property as they wished under the law.

City attorney Stephen Deutsch, arguing in favor of the ordinance said yesterday state home rule legislation and the city's own rent control statute gave the city power to regulate condominium conversions.

Lawyers said after the hearing a decision will take at least a month; both sides have promised to appeal should they lose the case.

The Rent Board granted several conversion permits soon after the new ordinance became law, but has turned down many requests in recent weeks.

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