Plaintiffs filed a complaint appealing a decision of Cambridge Historical Commission for issuing a Certificate of Appropriateness toLesleyUniversityrelative to moving of the North Prospect Congregational Church and a construction of a building on the former church site. Plaintiffs argue the Certificate violates the Landmark Study (which recommended that the church be designated a landmark), violates the Cambridge Code (which states that the historical value shall be considered) and allows institutional buildings in a residence district.
The court first finds that the plaintiffs’ argument regarding the Landmark Study is unpersuasive. There is nothing that limits Historical Commission’s authority to issue the Certificate; the Landmark Study is only a guide to be used as a supplement. Furthermore, the Landmark Study did not specifically prohibit relocating the church, it only found that proposals to do so should be evaluated based upon multiple factors.
Regarding the plaintiff’s claim that the Certificate violated the Cambridge Code, the court is also not persuaded. Plaintiffs failed to provide any evidence that the Historical Commission did not consider any of the factors listed in the Cambridge Code. In fact, the Historical Commission received a substantial amount of informational documents regarding the relocation of the church.
The plaintiff’s complaint about an educational building being built in a residential district also fails. Part of the zoning ordinance states that residential neighborhoods should be protected from unlimited institutional expansion, such that educational buildings are not permitted in residential districts. However, these provisions no longer apply since church lots are no longer part of a residential district and are governed by provisions in the Zoning Amendment. The court has already upheld the Zoning Amendment’s validity and rejects any argument the plaintiff makes regarding it. The Certificate is valid and the Historical Commission’s acts in granting it were legal.
The plaintiffs further argued that the Board’s decision to grant Special Permits violated several provisions of the Ordinance, primarily that there were adverse effects on the neighborhood. However, the Ordinance only states that the Board must “take into consideration [whether the project minimizes adverse effects on nearby housing].” There is no mandatory requirement that these effects be eliminated. Additionally, plaintiffs failed to produce any evidence or studies to support their allegations and rely only on speculation. The Special Permits were valid and Board’s actions in granting them were not arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion.
Farrington v.CambridgeHistorical Commission v.CambridgePlanning Board, 2012 WL 1884656 (Mass.Land Ct., 5/18/2012)
The opinion can be accessed at: http://masscases.com/cases/land/2012/2012-11-448568-JUDGMENT.html