NU Task Force aims to engage communities

June 1, 2012
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Northeastern University’s (NU) new community Task Force wants to engage the surrounding communities to a much larger extent than during the last institutional master plan (IMP) process.

“We want to make sure neighborhoods that are impacted have representation,” said Task Force member Dolly Battle.

Task Force members announced their intent of hosting extra meetings in their own communities and engaging with residents to avoid the poor attendance and controversy associated with the last NU IMP.

Communities involved in the Task Force include Mission Hill, the Fenway and Roxbury.

During a Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA)-led Task Force meeting on the NU campus on May 22, the Task Force also decided to compile a timeline of the last Task Force’s activities and decisions, to learn how to improve the process for the communities involved.

An IMP is a comprehensive development plan that describes an institution’s existing facilities, long-range planning goals and proposed projects. The institution must update and renew its IMP periodically and must amend it whenever it adds or changes any project significantly. The IMP serves as zoning approval for all its projects.

The NU IMP process includes the appointment of a new BRA-selected Task Force of neighbors and elected officials. Task Force members hold an advisory position in IMP development.

The controversial Grandmarc dorm project, already delayed a year due to community-originated lawsuits, was approved as an amendment to NU’s last IMP in 2010, with review by a previous Task Force.

At that point, very few members of the previous Task Force were involved in the process.

“What happens in one community affects all of us,” said Task Force member Joyce Foster.

Foster volunteered to lead the effort of compiling information on the last Task Force into a timeline for the current Task Force members.

Just before the last meeting, Task Force members were given a tour of the NU campus. They will also be provided with a detailed list of NU properties in preparation for future discussions on NU’s possible expansion.

The public comment period was cut short at the end of the meeting, as NU’s presentation and Task Force discussion took more time than anticipated. State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez later criticized that move in an email to the BRA.

“Members of surrounding communities…attend these meetings to ensure their voices are heard in regards to a project that will ultimately affect every aspect of their daily lives. To deny them the opportunity to participate during the Task Force meetings not only stifles the voice of the community, but denies the Task Force valuable community collaboration as it moves forward in the IMP process,” Sánchez wrote.

“It’s the beginning of the process and I want to make sure that the sanctity of the process is respected,” Sánchez said in a Gazette interview.

The BRA was not immediately available to comment.

The next Task Force meeting is scheduled for June 21. For more information, see northeastern.edu/masterplan.

John Ruch contributed to this article.

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