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Setting the stage for a town-gown dispute, Newton’s mayor said she will press for the city to acquire approximately 17 acres of Webster Woods from Boston College through eminent domain.
“They see this land as critical to their future, but we know it is critical to ours,” Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said in the statement Wednesday. “After devoting significant time to these conversations, the time has come to move forward.”
The woodland, located at 300 Hammond Pond Parkway in Chestnut Hill, connects to the largest section of open public space in Newton, including the Webster Conservation Area, the Hammond Pond Reservation, and the Cohen Conservation Area.
The college will oppose the move, Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn said in a statement Thursday.
“We are disappointed that Mayor Fuller has made this unfortunate decision, which we intend to oppose to the fullest extent possible using all legal avenues,” Dunn said.
Boston College purchased property that includes the woodland from Congregation Mishkan Tefila — including the temple building, parking area, and woodland — for $20 million in 2016.
In an interview last year, a college spokesman said BC purchased the land so the developed portion could serve as parking, administrative offices, and other uses.
Fuller, a longtime city councilor from Chestnut Hill, took office in January 2018. One of her earliest moves was to look for ways to preserve Webster Woods. She has been talking to Boston College for more than a year to acquire Webster Woods, she said in her statement Wednesday.
Fuller said she is “focused on saving” about 17 acres of land owned by the college. She remains open to “achieving a mutually acceptable agreement” with the college, she said, but has decided to initiate a process of acquiring the land through eminent domain.
“In the coming weeks and months, I will work with the Community Preservation Committee, the Conservation Commission, and the City Council to provide the necessary authority and funding to acquire the woods,” Fuller said.
She has approached the Community Preservation Committee for funding the purchase through the board’s open space funding reserve. That money, which comes from taxes, may only be used for land preservation, outdoor recreation facilities, historic preservation, or affordable housing, she said.
A formal request to the preservation committee will be made in the coming weeks, she said. Details on the cost of purchasing the land will also be forthcoming, she said.
The city must protect the woods’ diverse ecosystem and ensure residents have access to the woods, rocky ledges, and a vernal pool, Fuller said.
The property is also connected to about 88 acres of forest now maintained by the city and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.
“Preserving the largest contiguous forest for Newton in perpetuity is essential,” Fuller said in the statement.