June 21, 2018

Notre Dame group appeals judge's decision in hopes to block demolition

Photo | Grant Welker
A crane has been moved onto the site of Notre Dame church.

The Save Notre Dame Alliance has officially filed an appeal of a Worcester Superior Court judge's ruling to deny a temporary injunction in an effort to halt the destruction of the Notre Dame des Canadiens church.

The plaintiffs, including the Alliance and what they call "community leaders," argue that Judge James Gavin Reardon's interpretation of the law that led him to block the group's injunction against CitySquare II was wrong.

The appeal, filed Thursday, also seeks a temporary restraining order to block further damage to the church pending the appeal.

The group has retained Boston-based environmental law firm McGregor & Legere to represent them in the appeal. The group is also supported by Worcester attorney Robert Scott, who argued for the injunction in Worcester Superior Court last week.

That argument was heard in court Thursday, as was the argument by CitySquare II that demolition of the 89-year-old church didn't require a review by the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA).

EOEEA Secretary Matthew Beaton said in a 2017 letter that no review was necessary.

However, Save Notre Dame Alliance argued that since the overall $565 million City Square project includes some public money and the church is listed as a historic place on the state level, a review is necessary.

In his decision, Reardon applauded the group's efforts and passion, but noted that their case likely would have failed in court.

In a statement, Ted Conna of the Alliance said the appeal is less about saving the structure and more about the integrity of the environmental review process.

CitySquare II's approach to the issue, Conna said, was to collect their state funding, bide their time and avoid the review process by failing to disclose critical impacts, and then follow through on the demolition while "claiming the law no longer applies."

"This is a textbook case of how to evade public review, and it cannot go unchallenged," he said.

In a Tuesday statement, CitySquare II spokeswoman Pamela Jonah said the appeal would not affect the project's timeline.

"Surgical demolition related to environmental remediation has resumed, in keeping with our previously announced timeline," she said.


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