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|Craig Kelley for Cambridge City Council in 2015|
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. . . too many unknowns for such a request to be granted . . .
BZA ignored North Cambridge neighbors
When the Cambridge Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) voted unanimously to approve the subdivision of the Immaculate Conception Church in North Cambridge, Board members also unanimously ignored the solid neighborhood consensus that both the Board and the public should understand more about the Church's variance request before granting it.
Both at the zoning hearing and at an earlier North Cambridge Stabilization Committee meeting, neighbors had expressed concerns with the variance request. They weren't necessarily against it, but the Archdiocese was consistently unable to answer questions about how this variance would impact their densely populated neighborhood. How many units could go on one subdivided lot? The Archdiocese wasn't sure. What type of church would move into the parcel to be purchased by the French School? The Archdiocese wasn't sure. How big were the buildings in question and how much parking was available on site? Again, the Archdiocese didn't know.
There is no better time to protect a neighborhood's interests than when crafting a variance, so the neighbors turned to the BZA for help, asking that the Board not approve the Church's variance request. There were simply too many unknowns for such a request to be granted. To the local residents most likely to be impacted by the variance, it seemed reasonable to expect the City's zoning board to protect their interests. Unfortunately, the neighborhood's expectations proved ill-founded. The Board turned its back on those it has an obligation to protect and approved a variance request neither they nor the public, nor anyone else, fully understood.
This sort of sloppy decision-making on the part of the BZA happens far too often in all parts of the City. And like the neighbors of North Cambridge's Immaculate Conception Church, all citizens of Cambridge deserve better.