After large turnout delays results, town votes against Article 9
Dartmouth students and Hanover community members lined up in Hanover High on Tuesday to vote.
Early Wednesday morning, the town of Hanover released results from the annual town meeting the night before and did not pass zoning board amendment Article 9, which concerned the town’s definition of a student residence. Out of 3,464 total ballots cast on the measure, 42.5 percent (1,471) were in favor of the measure and 57.5 percent (1,993) were against it. Article 9 needed a “supermajority,” or two-thirds of the votes, to pass.
The results, which are normally announced during the town meeting held after the polls close, were delayed due to the large number of ballots cast. In a previous interview with The Dartmouth, Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that most town meetings see 500 to 800 voters.
The article would have changed the town’s definition of “student residence,” making it such that student residences would not have to operate in conjunction with the College, affecting derecognized fraternities Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Alpha Delta.
SAE and AD are currently not designated as student residences. Both Greek houses underwent individual court cases to maintain their statuses as student residencies. On April 11 of this year, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled against AD. SAE’s court case is still ongoing.
“I knew when we woke up today, regardless of where this came out, for the vast majority of those who supported Article 9, our relationship with the College is not going to change,” Phi Delta Alpha corporation president George Faux ’84 said.
He added that as the president of a recognized organization, he values the benefits of recognition. Faux said that he expects the mutually beneficial relationship between the College and the Greek system to continue in the long run.
Faux said that the public perceived Article 9 through a lens focused on the rivalry between the College and the Greek system, the town and the Greek system or the College and its situation with AD and SAE. However, he said that Article 9 covered a much broader scope.
“SAE and AD are taking a judicial path to managing their challenges or their issues with the College,” Faux said. “[Article 9] was a legislative path to clarify our relationship with the town.”
He added that Article 9 was “not necessarily a house having an issue with the College.”
“The impetus of [Article 9] was the town putting forth an amendment to the ordinance that was going to tighten up the definition of ‘student residence’ in a way that we felt was disadvantageous to those who hold private property,” Faux said.
Voting occurred Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Hanover High School, and the results were posted on the Hanover town website at 2:45 a.m. Wednesday morning. During the voting period, students carpooled and took chartered buses to the polling area, while multiple Greek houses hosted barbecues along Webster Avenue to encourage students to vote.
The zoning ordinance has two definitions for student residences, distinguishing residences in the institutional district from those in residential districts. Both of those definitions labeled student residences as any building occupied by students in affiliation with the College. Article 9 proposed one overall definition, which was “a building designed for residential student occupancy, which may include living units with social rooms and kitchen facilities for any number of students,” eliminating the requirement of operating “in conjunction with another institutional use.”
Hanover deputy fire chief Michael Hinsley said he was surprised by the difference in votes cast on the different articles at the town hall, although he was happy that so many Dartmouth students turned out to participate. While Article 9 received nearly 3,500 votes, several other articles received 2,500 votes or less.
Hinsley noted that the main impact of the vote is that fraternities, sororities and affinity houses will continue to maintain their ties to the College.
As a result of this relationship, Hinsley said that Greek houses receive help from the College for services that they would otherwise have to provide themselves, such as fire alarm testing. Had Article 9 been passed, the town would have had to take over more responsibilities in ensuring the safety of the buildings.
Hanover resident Jason Berry said that he did not want the town to have to assume responsibility for monitoring fraternities.
“I think that it doesn’t seem to make sense to me to lower the burden of monitoring fraternities under the town when Dartmouth assumes it for free,” Berry said.
Another Hanover resident, Helena Witcham, echoed similar thoughts, saying that Dartmouth should be responsible for its fraternities, because the buildings house Dartmouth students.
According to town documents, the Hanover Planning Board recommended that the amendment be disapproved since the Zoning Board of Adjustment had issued two rulings clarifying the current definitions of student residencies with regard to AD and SAE. According to a College press release, the College also opposed the measure due to the reduced oversight of misconduct by College officials, in addition to possible public safety implications.
According to the Planning Board, the proposed Article 9 amendment would have eliminated direct health and safety oversight of student residences, which is currently provided by the College.
Faux said sometimes town residents do not appreciate the full contributions that Dartmouth students make to the greater town of Hanover, adding that it is necessary for the College, the town and the students to work together to make the community safer and better, since the “three elements are inextricably linked.”
Articles 2 through 8, which were also on the ballot, passed. Article 23, a proposal to commit Hanover to join the “Ready for 100 Action” campaign, moving the town towards a goal of 100 percent renewable energy sources of electricity by 2030 and renewable sources of fuel for heat and transportation by 2050, also passed during the town meeting.
Representatives for SAE declined to comment.