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Regis College Appeals Land Court Ruling on Regis East

February 16, 2011

Also Asks Supreme Judicial Court for Direct Review

Weston, MA. Regis College has taken two appellate actions to overturn last year’s adverse Land Court decision, which denied the college the protection of the law to expand its campus for educational use. In addition to filing its brief with the state Appeals Court, Regis has also asked the Supreme Judicial Court for a Direct Review of the matter.

The state’s Dover amendment was designed to protect educational and religious organizations from unreasonable local zoning regulations. However, in January 2010, for the first time, the Land Court disregarded Dover, its legislative history and the cases interpreting it, as applied to private, non-profit colleges. It denied Regis College the right to create a diverse educational community for senior adults on its east campus.

Regis East is an educational use as contemplated by the Dover amendment and cases interpreting it, according to the College, and thus should be exempted from unreasonable Weston zoning by-laws, which now restrict any building on the 60 acres of undeveloped College-owned land to three single-family residences.

Regis’ request to the SJC for direct appellate review is to reaffirm the Court’s prior interpretation of the Dover Amendment, clarify its definition of educational purposes and affirm the value of intergenerational educational settings to meet the needs of our society’s rapidly shifting demographics.

The College says the Land Court erred in concluding that, because Regis East would generate income and provide senior housing, it cannot also have an education purpose as envisioned by the Dover amendment.

The Regis East proposal calls for several buildings to be built on Regis property on the east side of Wellesley Street in Weston. Plans include children’s classrooms, classrooms for lifelong learning and college uses, computer labs, libraries and clinical teaching space. Also included are up to 362 residential living units for seniors, all linked to the education resources of the existing campus. Each resident would have an individualized learning plan and be required to take at least two courses each semester, four courses each year. Regis East will provide internships to Regis College students in gerontology, social work and management. Students at all levels of nursing education will have rotation opportunities on the East Campus.

“Multi-generational learning is nothing new to Regis,” said Regis College President Mary Jane England, MD. “We’ve had pre-schoolers, our older non-traditional Heritage Scholars and hundreds of senior learners in LLARC, Lifelong Learning at Regis College. In addition to our anticipated appeal, we are also asking the state’s highest court to recognize the educational purpose of Regis East, whose residents will be aged 55 and up. We are asking that the Court apply the standards of the Dover Amendment as they have been applied consistently over many decades so that Regis College can fulfill its educational mission.”

“Education is defined differently for different age groups, and education itself is evolving in new forms in the 21st century, especially to meet the needs of our society’s rapidly shifting demographics,” she added. “Our senior scholars will be eligible to obtain certificates, bachelors and masters or post graduate degrees or, just as undergraduate students may do, audit courses.”

Regis East residents will have opportunities to tutor and mentor undergraduate students in fields in which the senior scholars have expertise.

Regis East is a logical extension of Regis’ historic mission, which has a major emphasis on preparing students for the caring professions. According to Antoinette Hays, Dean of the Regis College School of Nursing, Sciences and Health Professions, “Students at all levels of nursing education will have rotation opportunities on the East Campus, helping us address the critical shortage of convenient internships for one of the fastest growing nursing programs in Massachusetts. Regis East will play a significant role in educating faculty and students in the field of gerontology, a field of increasing importance as our population ages. Regis East will also offer internships to students in social work, psychology, and management.”

No court in Massachusetts has ever before rejected Dover use protection for a non-profit educational corporation on the basis that the project provides a revenue stream to the institution, according to the Regis College appeal. If such were the case, almost no college expansion project would be protected under Dover, the appeal explained.

Regis College is a Catholic co-educational community that prepares undergraduate, graduate and continuing education students for engagement and service in a changing world. In the School of Liberal Arts, Education and Social Sciences and the School of Nursing, Sciences and Health Professions, approximately 1,600 students are enrolled in 17 undergraduate majors; 30 minors; 10 interdisciplinary pathways toward professional success; and master’s degree programs in education, communication, health administration, health product regulation, and nursing, and a doctoral program in nursing practice. U.S. News and World Report ranks Regis in the top tier of universities with master’s programs in the North. The College is listed by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) among benchmarking colleges for the quality of educational experience. With a strategic graduate focus on health care, Regis College was recently named a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education by the National League of Nursing. The College also provides accredited pre-school and kindergarten programs and a Life Long Learning Program (LLARC) for retired seniors. Visit Regis on the Web at www.regiscollege.edu.

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