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Regis College decries Land Court’s decision on Regis East Housing and Educational ProposalJanuary 7, 2010
Court ignores 30 years of Dover Amendment legislative history
The Massachusetts Land Court has handed down a decision that could harm every college and university in the Commonwealth. In a puzzling and contradictory decision, Land Court Judge Alexander Sands admitted all the evidence and accepted all the facts that Regis College presented, and he agreed that education would take place at the Regis East senior residential and educational project. However, he decided that “the proposed use of the Project is not an educational purpose as contemplated by the Dover Amendment” because, he ruled, education is not “the primary and dominant” feature of the plan. This ruling was made despite the judge’s findings that residents, or “senior scholars” would be required to take classes, and taking classes would be a requirement of residency.
“We are disappointed at the Court’s ruling,” said Mary Jane England, MD, president of Regis College. “For some time, Regis has been advocating the vision of a multi-generational living and learning community on our undeveloped East Campus property designed to respond to the needs of our aging population.”
“We believe that this is a seriously flawed decision and are currently evaluating our options,” she said. “Other colleges and universities, indeed, all religious, educational and other non-profit institutions that have benefited from the Dover Amendment to overcome local zoning challenges, should be very concerned about the implications of this judge’s ruling. The Regis East project for senior scholars is an important educational initiative and totally integrated into the campus environment for graduate and undergraduate students, especially curricula in nursing, health professions, social work and management.”
In rendering his decision, Judge Sands ignored more than three decades of legislative history in which the Commonwealth repeatedly blocked all efforts to narrow the educational purpose test of the Dover Amendment. “The legislature has rejected any and all attempts to use the ’primary and dominant’ standard to determine whether a non-profit institution’s project comes under the so-called Dover Amendment and would therefore not be subject to a community’s restrictive zoning laws,” said attorney Doreen M. Zankowski, who represents Regis College.
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 seven children’s classrooms, five classrooms for lifelong learning and college uses, computer labs, three libraries and at least one clinical teaching room for 100 students. Also included are up to 362 residential living units for seniors - all linked to the education resources of the existing campus, and on a scale appropriate to the site, the needs of the residents, students, interested alums, and other members of the Regis and Weston communities. Each resident would have an individualized learning plan and be required to take at least two courses each semester.
Abutters, forcefully arguing “not in my backyard,” have been hostile to the project since its conception. The town of Weston rejected it, and Regis, since 2005, has sought protection from the Court under the Dover Amendment.
“Regis East has been very much in keeping with the spirit of our founding Sisters of Saint Joseph,” said Dr. England. “Multigenerational learning is nothing new to Regis; we’ve long had pre-schoolers and our non-traditional Heritage Scholars on campus as well as an excellent lifelong learning program enrolling more than 300 seniors. The intergenerational programming envisioned for Regis East would expand educational opportunities for senior residents and for all Regis students.”
The court did not rule on Regis College’s appeal of the town’s denial of a variance from the zoning laws and has scheduled a hearing for February 9th.
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 Arts and Sciences and the School of Nursing and Health Professions, approximately 1,600 students are enrolled in 24 undergraduate majors; master’s degree programs in education, health product regulation, and nursing, and in communication, leadership and service, and public administration with a strategic focus on health care; and a doctorate 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 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) lists Regis among benchmarking colleges for the quality of educational experience. The National League of Nursing recently identified Regis College as a Center of Excellence in Nursing Education. The College also provides accredited pre-school and kindergarten programs, and a Life Long Learning Program (LLARC) for retired seniors.
CONTACT: Marjorie Arons-Barron, (617) 423-7770; firstname.lastname@example.org