Mount Ida College is moving to develop a section of its Newton campus to make room for an eight-lot subdivision of single family homes on Carlson Avenue.
The proposed development comes as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints looks to build a meeting house and on-site parking on an abutting parcel it bought from the college last year.
But development in the area has sparked opposition from some neighbors, who say it threatens to destroy a strip of woodland between Carlson Avenue and nearby residents, said Jhonatan Rotberg, with the Save Carlson Ave Woods! community group.
Opponents also worry that the developments will increase traffic and eliminate woods that serve as a natural buffer protecting nearby homes from flooding risk, he said. The college and developers have not sufficiently worked with residents to address their concerns, he said.
“The college completely ignored us at best. Or at worst, tried to blindside us so we couldn’t organize,” said Rotberg, a Wiswall Road resident. “That is what motivated us to say, ‘enough is enough.’”
Amy Nagy, a college spokeswoman, said in a statement that the changes proposed for Carlson Avenue achieves the goals of being respectful to the “character and tradition” of the college, the neighborhood, and the city. The college is working with Southborough-based Brendon Homes to develop the housing project.
“The parcels of land (one of which has been sold and the other under agreement) will assist the college in supporting our students, while maintaining respect for our neighborhood,” Nagy said in the statement. “We believe Brendon Homes understands these issues and is interested in building homes that, in design and character, seek to achieve these goals.”
Mount Ida College is a 100-year-old private school with more than 1,500 students. Former Mayor Setti Warren, now a candidate for governor, joined Mount Ida as a visiting fellow in January.
Last year, the college subdivided about 20 acres of land it owned on either side of Carlson Avenue, which is a driveway that connects the campus to Dedham Street.
About 5.5 acres were sold in May to the Presiding Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The college was paid $7 million, according to deed documents.
The remaining 14-acre parcel is eyed for the eight single-family lots, which would occupy about 6 acres.
While the area is zoned for single-family homes, the city’s Planning and Development Board will still have to approve the subdivision plan proposal, said Jennifer Caira, the city’s chief planner for current planning.
The college and developer are also working with the city’s Engineering Division on technical aspects of the proposal, including review of stormwater and drainage on the property, she said.
The Planning and Development Board has not set a date to continue its deliberations on the subdivision plan, she said.
A formal proposal from the LDS church has not been filed with the city, said Caira.
Laurie Low, a spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said construction is anticipated to begin in 2019.
“We are in the early design stages for a meetinghouse to be constructed on the property for use by two local congregations. Once completed, the building will house Sunday services and other activities, which will be open to all who wish to attend,” Low said.
The church “will continue to work with the city and neighborhood to consider input and local needs, and will share more information as the plans are finalized,” she said.
Mayor Ruthanne Fuller said the city will be diligent in its review of development in the area. She said officials will ensure requirements for drainage are met, that emergency vehicles will have sufficient access, and that structures are built with the appropriate setbacks from property lines.
“Woods and open space matter deeply to us in the city of Newton,” said Fuller, who has met with area residents about the project. “I hope that Mount Ida and the neighbors can find a way forward that works for the college and the neighbors.”
Rotberg tied the neighbors’ cause to Webster Woods, a parcel of land owned by Boston College that city officials hope to preserve as open space. He said Mount Ida should not be allowed to develop the woods on Carlson Avenue.
“We don’t see why we should absorb increased flooding and traffic because they have these big ambitions,” Rotberg said.
The college sent out certified letters to more than 100 abutters and has hosted two meetings on campus, Nagy said. The school’s president, Barry Brown, has also spoken with many of the neighbors, Nagy said.
John Hilliard can be reached at email@example.com.