Zoning board reverses SAE decision

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 7/21/16 11:56am

The Hanover Zoning Board of Adjustment ruled on Monday that Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity lost its residential zoning status when the College derecognized the organization last winter.

The zoning board’s decision passed with a 4-0 vote and one abstention. The ruling found that the College has demonstrated oversight over its fraternities, including SAE, prior to a 1976 ordinance, particularly in regards to fire safety. The decision reverses an April ruling by the board.

The zoning board initially ruled on April 18 that SAE, which was derecognized by the College this past winter, could maintain its status as a student residence because it is considered “grandfathered” under previous zoning ordinances.

Prior to the April decision, the house could not be used as a residence because under current zoning laws, student residences are required to operate “in conjunction with” an institution such as the College.

In the April decision, the zoning board found SAE to be exempt from the rule because the house, built in 1928, existed before the ordinance was adopted in 1976 and was not under College supervision.

Following that decision, the College filed a motion with the zoning board on May 16 requesting a rehearing, which was approved by the zoning board on June 2. The zoning board held a public rehearing on June 23 on the fraternity’s status.

During the June 23 meeting, the College submitted new evidence, including prior board of trustee decisions, it says shows it did provide supervision over SAE.

In June, after the initial zoning board decision, then-Interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer announced that students could not live in an unrecognized Greek, undergraduate or senior society facility.

SAE could request a rehearing and go before the state Superior Court, a path Alpha Delta fraternity took this year.

Town manager Julia Griffin said SAE has 15 days to request reconsideration of the decision by the zoning board. The board will then decide whether they will reconsider or not. If SAE’s reconsideration request is rejected, they can then file an appeal in the Grafton County Superior Court.

SAE could also choose to comply with the zoning board’s decision, which would mean they need to vacate the building and vacate its use, Griffin said. The town typically waits for the 15-day appeal period to expire before enforcing the decision, she said.

“Because they’re on appeal to the town, we haven’t taken any follow up enforcement action,” she said. “We typically wait for that deadline to play out.”

Griffin said she does not know if students are currently living in the house.

She added that the Alpha Delta fraternity case set a precedent that the most recent SAE decision reinforced. She noted that once the board received information from both the College and SAE regarding their relationship over the years, the ruling “ran very much along the structure of the AD decision.”

AD, derecognized by the College in April of 2015, appealed its zoning board decision in the fall. AD’s case went before the Superior Court, which upheld the decision in May. The case is now before the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The Supreme Court accepted the case on June 28.

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence declined to comment on the decision. In an email to The Valley News, Lawrence wrote that no fraternity on campus could claim to be not bound by the 1976 ordinance.

“Dartmouth has been supervising fraternities since before the Town of Hanover had a zoning ordinance,” Lawrence wrote.

This article will be updated as more information is reported.