Appeal for indoor practice facility denied

by Susie Lee | 10/3/17 2:15am

In late September, the College lost its appeal to the Grafton Superior Court to approve a plan for a new indoor practice facility. College spokesperson Diana Lawrence wrote in an email that the College is reviewing the court’s decision and considering its options moving forward.

Presiding judge Peter Bornstein wrote in his decision that the College “failed to carry its burden of proving that the Board’s denial of the petitioner’s site plan application was unlawful or unreasonable.”

In 2015, Dartmouth proposed an approximately $20 million plan to build a new 70,000 square foot indoor sports practice facility next to the Boss Tennis Center. The facility would have been used year-round, but especially in the winter, when it is often difficult to practice outdoors.

In late 2016, the Hanover Planning Board denied a permit for the facility. Though the board agreed that the proposal complied with zoning regulations, four out of five members voted against the plan based on other regulations calling for projects to relate to the “harmonious and aesthetically pleasing development of the town” and that it did not fit in the town’s master plan. The master plan is a guide for future planning that each town in New Hampshire is required to create.

Following the denial, the College appealed the decision, asking whether or not the Planning Board had the authority to deny an application even if it complies with zoning regulations and arguing that the denial’s basis was too subjective. 

Some Hanover residents have defended the Board’s decision because they have been very active in opposing the indoor practice facility, according to Hanover town manager Julia Griffin. Since the College suggested placing the building on the periphery of the campus abutting the residential neighborhood, some neighbors felt it would overwhelm their streets, Griffin said.

“People are very passionate about maintaining the quality of life to their neighborhoods, and they are resistant to see change which they perceive as the negative impact on their quality of life,” Griffin said. 

The College now has the right to request reconsideration of the issue by the court and then, depending on whether the court reconsiders or changes its decision, the residents can also appeal to the court. If the judge decides not to reconsider or does reconsider the case yet maintains his original decision, the College can reappeal the case to the court, Griffin said. 

Sentiment among varsity athletes about the indoor practice facilities has been varied. 

Running outside in the winter is “not super ideal but [is] usually still doable unless the ground is too icy,” cross-country runner Ben Roberts ’20 said. 

Yet, Roberts added, he and some of his teammates “definitely would rather run on the treadmill every day.”

Football player Nathanael Boone ’21 said practicing in the Leverone Field House limits practice options, putting Dartmouth at a disadvantage compared to other Division I football programs, most of which have indoor facilities.

While the College is still considering its options, Griffin said it should “let the legal system play out” and “interact with the neighbors to try and accommodate their concerns.” 

“If the College were proposing to build the indoor practice facility somewhere in the middle of the campus that was not adjacent to a residential neighborhood, this case would probably not have been appealed because it becomes less controversial,” she said. 

The Planning Board agreed with residents that due to the aesthetics and potential noise from the building, the plan was out of character with the town of Hanover, Griffin said.

Director of varsity athletics communications Rick Bender said that all coaches were unavailable for comment.