From a reader, we received a copy of the most recent letter from Boston College to its neighbors. The full text of the letter, below. It amounts to a factually sketchy warning that your elected representatives don’t have your best interests in mind. BC, however, does.
Basically, Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs Thomas J. Keady, Jr. devotes the bulk of the letter to warning Newtonians about the reckless course the city is on. No affordable housing or playgrounds. (Not true.) Will eat up the entire CPA fund balance. (Also, not true.*) Will prevent the city from dealing with “urgent priorities to address that require funding, including schools in need of substantial upgrade, teacher salaries, fire stations, and the unfunded pension liabilities for municipal workers.” (Apples and oranges.) Fear mongering.
What’s missing — notably — is any claim that Newton need not fear development of Webster Woods, that our good neighbor BC also worries about potential loss of forested open space and is making it unnecessary for the city to worry. Nor does the letter take the opposite tack and make a case for why it’s important to BC’s mission to develop some or all of the parcel and how they will either mitigate or demonstrate how mitigation is not required. In short, nothing to directly address the feared loss of open space that’s motivating the eminent domain campaign.
Also, Mr. Keady asserts, without any specificity, that “Boston College has been a good neighbor and engaged member of the community since 1913.” Probably lacks specificity because BC is a not-for-profit that makes minimal payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT).
If BC wants to make a case for why eminent domain is unfair to BC, fine, make it. But please, Mr. Keady, spare us your faux concern about what our mayor and city council are doing to us. We find your concern disengenuous. And, we trust their judgment more than yours.
I write to you today in my role as Vice President for Governmental and Community Affairs at Boston College to raise concerns regarding the City of Newton’s plan to seize by eminent domain 17 acres of BC’s property at 300 Hammond Pond Parkway.
The Newton Community Preservation Committee has $14 million in a fund for affordable housing, historic resources, open space, and recreational land, currently with at least 28 projects vying for funding. All of these projects—from affordable housing and public parks/playgrounds to historic preservation—would lose out if the Mayor and City Council proceed to direct the entire fund to pay for Boston College’s land. The City also has additional urgent priorities to address that require funding, including schools in need of substantial upgrade, teacher salaries, fire stations, and the unfunded pension liabilities for municipal workers.
The City of Newton could have purchased the 300 Hammond Pond Parkway property during the 2014-2015 period, but declined. The City of Newton has appraised the value fo the 17-acre parcel at $15.2 million, but he current value of the property is likely far in excess of the amount budgeted by the City. If the City proceeds to take the land by eminent domain, the difference between Newton’s appraisal and the award determined by the courts will be absorbed by Newton taxpayers. To give some land cost perspective, two years ago Hebrew College sold 7 acres for $18million and this fall, Newbury College’s 8-acre campus sold for $34 million.
Boston College has been a good neighbor and engaged member of the community since 1913. Newton taxpayers deserve better than to be subjected to an ill-advised and expensive eminent domain proposal.
Thank you for your consideration.
Thomas J. Keady, Jr.
Vice President, Governmental and Community Affairs
* Technically, Mr. Keady conditions the claim that the city will not be able to fund other CPA-eligible projects with “if the Mayor and City Council proceed to direct the entire fund to pay for Boston College’s land,” which, of course, is not what the mayor has proposed.