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Town Meeting fails to approve Lahey Clinic

Burlington’s Town Meeting failed to approve Lahey Clinic by the required two-thirds majority. The vote was 791 in favor, 586 opposed. The hospital wanted to move from its cramped Kenmore Square location to a 40-acre tract uphill from the new Burlington Mall, but the town clearly was struggling with pros and cons.

The original Lahey Clinic Kenmore Square Boston
The original Lahey Clinic Kenmore Square Boston

The pros included the financial boost to the town via a $200,000 annual payment in lieu of taxes, priority beds for Burlington residents and lots of educational and wellness clinics conducted by some of the best medical pros in the region. The cons boiled down to the Home Depot effect: Would local doctors lose their patients to a “big box” hospital?  Was $200k enough to cover the strain on town infrastructure? Lahey repeatedly refined its proposal and won approval from Town Meeting in 1971, by a vote of 1,622-375 through a secret ballot, the first one ever held.

Lahey plan rejected Burlington MA

While Burlington balked, Lowell immediately tried to woo Lahey:


Lowell Lahey overture


What else happened 50 years ago? Burlington adopted an elementary school dress code. Pants optional, apparently.


Dec. 1970 elementary dress code, Burlington MA


What else? Selectmen proudly announced sewer connections were available for the college-themed neighborhood off Francis Wyman Road: Mellin Street, Lida Ave., Dartmouth Road, Bates Street, William Circle, Amherst Road, Kempton Ave., Overlook Ave., Josephine Ave. and part of University Ave.

And some bad news. A local boy apparently went wrong:

Burlington man arrested in CA

And horrible news: Smoke inhalation from a smoldering couch at 4 Robert Street killed 64-year-old James Driscoll and wife Elsie, 69, along with several pets. The cause?  A cigarette, of course. The couple was childless but spent a lot of time with the neighborhood children, even baking cookies for them and having them as guests.

4 Robert Street fire, Burlington MA


Jordan Marsh bags, 1970 Burlington Mall, Burlington MA

Don Kent Thom McAn ad Burlington MA 1970

5 thoughts on “Town Meeting fails to approve Lahey Clinic Leave a comment

  1. And look at Lahey Clinic now. It’s among the best in Greater Boston for Healthcare and I can only imagine how much revenue and other business it generates for the town.

  2. Regarding the dress code notice if one takes it literally without context. Girls must remove pants when arriving. lol!

  3. My father was active in town government in those years. He was a member of the Finance Committee and a frequent participant in town meetings in those days when it was an open town meeting, before they elected representatives. I remember him telling me once that the people of the town bargained hard with the Clinic, getting many concessions. For instance, the original plans did not include an emergency room. The town’s argument went, “How can they sit up there, overlooking 128, and just watch while auto accident victims were taken to Choate, Winchester, and Symmes?” The Clinic today has an emergency room and trauma center……

  4. The Driscolls on Robert Street were our neighbors. Elsie would give out giant apples on Halloween. She had to stop after some idiot started putting razor blades in Apple’s elsewhere. Elsie was so sad. They were very nice people.

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