Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced on Sept. 18 a plan to assert eminent domain over 17 acres of Webster Woods owned by Boston College at 300 Hammond Pond Parkway. Following her announcement, the university released a statement declaring that this step will be met with legal action.
The 24-acre property—purchased by Boston College from the Congregation Mishkan Tefila for $20 million in 2016—is located between two areas of protected forest. Webster Woods includes the former temple building, parking lots, and 17 acres of forest. It is maintained by the Newton Conservation Commission and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
In a letter to the Newton City Council dated Sept. 18, Fuller states her intention to preserve the community’s “largest contiguous forest.”
“We must protect this diverse ecosystem and the habitat it provides for birds, mammals, amphibians, and insects,” said Fuller. “We must ensure our residents have access to the woods, rocky ledges, and the vernal pool on these 17+ acres and can connect to the 88+ acres of forest to either side that is cared for by the City of Newton and Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.”
Fuller continued, “While I remain open to achieving a mutually acceptable agreement with BC, I have decided to initiate a process of acquiring the property’s 17+ acres of pristine woods through the city’s power of eminent domain.”
The mayor said that she will be working with the Community Preservation Committee, the Conservation Commission, and City Council to obtain the authority and funding to preserve the woods for the Newton community.
While BC has not announced any plans to develop the forest property, the university has already spent $5 million to update the building and $1.5 million on a city sewer line, according to a Sept. 19 statement.
In the statement, BC Spokesman Jack Dunn said Fuller's plan to use eminent domain will be opposed “to the fullest extent possible using all avenues.”