|By Natasha Clark|
Assistant Managing Editor
LONGMEADOW Bay Path College and members of the Arlington Road Neighborhood Association have finally reached a resolution after three years of disputing over the college's initial parking plans.
"We pretty much did the impossible and what would seem the impossible. It took us about a year of discussion with Carol Leary, Ted Fleming and Rick Steel from Bay Path, myself, Bob Forester and Roger Jaroz. In the process we both achieved our objectives," Dr. William Knaus, spokesperson for the Arlington Road Neighborhood Association, said.
Association members and abutters to the campus protested Bay Path's initial plans to expand a parking area bordering Arlington Road and construct a new academic building with an accommodating parking lot.
Kathleen Bourque, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Bay Path, said one of the issues was the northern end of the campus; the proposed parking lot for that location would have required rerouting traffic. Instead, some spaces were gained by expanding the parking lot closer to some of the property, up to or over the property lines.
Landscaping and lighting wattage were also problematic areas.
"They had a tower of 8 or 10 or so of huge lights. What they've done is that they've taken that down and put in decorative lighting which shines down on the campus, providing safety for students and making their neighbors enormously happy," Knaus said.
"Separately, Lot A's (a different parking area) concern was a buffer of trees between Arlington Road and the campus. We ultimately decided not to expand parking down there," Bourque said. "The reality of it was in that existing buffer zone 10 trees were diseased and dead, and so the trees had been in decline and we had to cut them down. What we did was that the landscaper that we used, he spent quite a lot of time on the neighbors side of things. When he did the landscaping plan he did it as if, 'If I live on Arlington Road, how would this look?' It enabled both parties to see things from one another's perspective."
"They wanted to remove a slope where there was a canopy of trees and build an 11 foot retaining wall. It would have altered the nature and character of the neighborhood," Knaus said. "The canopy of trees is still intact [and] there is no retaining wall."
Bay Path has also chosen not to construct the proposed academic building and instead they extensively renovated another academic facility.
"We're absolutely thrilled. I think that it really was a mutually beneficial resolution," Bourque shared. "The months working with the association, sitting down and making sure we better understood their concerns, and vice versa, I think where we ended up for both parties really was an ideal situation," Bourque said.
It's common for colleges and surrounding neighbors to have issues regarding a campus and its expansion. However, Knaus said relations between the two do not have to be unpleasant.
"Informal resolution is the approach we took to resolve our differences. As a result of that, lawsuits were dropped and resolutions were drafted ... Differences between colleges and neighborhoods can be worked out. If you look at Smith College and all of the negative press that has come out of their in turns of Green Street, it's left a lot of bitterness and ill will, much of which could have been avoided in our view," Knaus added. "This neighborhood and the college are neighbors. We know that if there's growth that they need support with we'll support them and we'll do it publically. A major conflict [has been] resolved to the benefit of the college and neighborhood and it merits imitation by other groups and colleges who run into similar situations."