Alewife Study Group > W. R. Grace site > W. R. Grace sues - press release Search 

Why is W. R. Grace & Co. suing City Hall?

On January 6, 1997, W. R. Grace & Co. and its development subsidiary, Alewife Land Corporation, filed a lawsuit against the City of Cambridge and individual members of the Cambridge City Council. This filing was a direct result of a recent City Council decision to approve a zoning petition requiring a 400-foot buffer zone on Grace property in Cambridge, a move taken against the advice of the Cambridge Planning Board and the City's own outside legal counsel.

In 1987, the Planning Board for the City of Cambridge granted Grace a special Planned Unit Development permit for development of the Alewife Center project, to be located on the site adjacent to the Grace facilities on Whittemore Avenue. The Alewife Center today includes an office building with future plans for further development of the project. The permit was a result of an extensive public permitting process lasting several years. It is the belief of Grace's legal counsel that this permit is still viable and that the recent buffer zone action is contrary to the stated zoning policies of the City of Cambridge.

The zoning change would essentially halt all further development on the Alewife site and render any current structures as non-conforming. Only "open space" uses such as governmental facilities, public parks, playgrounds or recreation buildings would be allowed. All other uses, including extension of all of W. R. Grace's existing uses within the buffer area, would be prohibited.

In filing suit, Grace is protecting its property and legitimate interests against the illegal zoning acts of the City of Cambridge. Since this proposed buffer zone singles out for special treatment only one parcel - the Alewife site - it is considered unlawful "spot zoning." The Cambridge Zoning Ordinance does not provide a 400-foot open space buffer zone for any other residential area, and the City cannot, by law, subject the Grace site to these more stringent requirements.

The zoning proposal also constitutes a taking of private property without due process of law. It deprives Grace of all productive uses of the buffer area and illegally limits the development potential and access to the remaining portion of the Grace property.

The City of Cambridge's legal counsel has recognized the illegality of the City's actions on the zoning change. It has also questioned the existence of adequate evidence to justify a substantial open space buffer and recognized that the goal of such action may be to defeat development on the Alewife site.

Grace regrets that it has been forced to take legal action and commit itself and the City to unnecessary legal expense.

Grace remains committed to keeping its neighbors and the people of Cambridge informed of the facts concerning the Alewife site. We invite you to review the actions of the City Council and Grace's complaint against the City, which is now public record. Should you desire a copy of the complaint, you may call 498-4312.

Should you have comments regarding the complaint or the development process, please write to Dave Wightman, Grace Construction Products, 62 Whittemore Ave., Cambridge, MA 02140.

Thank you.

The document above is a press release from W. R. Grace

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