Hanover to review Thayer expansion

by Alec Rossi | 9/18/18 3:10am

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by Adrian Russian / The Dartmouth

Pending approval from the town of Hanover, Dartmouth’s west end construction may begin as soon as the new year.

Last week, the College submitted plans to the town of Hanover for its $200 million expansion project on the west end of campus. While construction has not yet begun, a public hearing will be held on Oct. 2 to review the College’s proposal.

The expansion project includes the construction of a new building that will house both the computer science department and the Thayer School of Engineering, restoration of Tuck Drive, construction of a parking garage and installation of traffic lights or signs at the crossing of West Wheelock and West Street.

Vice president of planning, design and construction John Scherding said that the College has provided an abundance of information for the town to review.

“[Hanover’s review process] ... ensure[s] that development in Hanover … doesn’t do harm or cause disruption to the town, to the abutters, or to the neighbors,” Scherding said.

He added that the process is not an aesthetic design review, but rather a way to identify issues that could be a nuisance to the town. Building noises and glares from exterior lighting are both examples of nuisances that Hanover’s planning and zoning board will consider, Scherding said.

Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said that Hanover also considers the impact of construction on current infrastructure, such as water supply, sewers, drains, electrical lines and rain gardens.

According to Scherding, the College always considers storm water management when completing building projects.

“With every project we bring to the town, we actually reduce the storm water by using more sustainable management techniques,” he said.

Hanover director of planning, zoning and codes Robert Houseman said that the October public hearing will provide a space for community members to learn about the project, provide personal testimony, raise questions and speak for or against the project.

Scherding said that although the Thayer renovation does not abut a residential area, residents may be concerned about the proposal to install a traffic light at the crossing of West Wheelock and West Street. He added that a traffic consultant has studied the intersection and the impact of potential signalization in the area.

“[The signalization] has been carefully studied by the traffic consultant and is not anticipated to have a negative impact on traffic even at peak commuting hours,” Scherding said.

While the planning board may approve the project proposal, Houseman said that the proposed light must still be reviewed and approved by the public works department.

Griffin said that the proposal for the traffic light is “probably” overdue as there have long been issues with safe pedestrian crossing in this area.

Houseman noted that students who are living in off-campus rental housing use the crossing and that the current volume and speed of traffic is a problem.

To ease traffic during construction, the College has already begun renovating Tuck Drive. The restoring and reopening of the road will allow one-way traffic to access the west end of campus.

After the public hearing, Houseman said that the next step for the planning board is to schedule a site visit. At these visits, the board has the opportunity to see the proposed construction site, evaluate potential concerns the public has raised and determine if additional considerations need to be made.

After the site visit, the board will convene again, either in the form of a deliberation on the proposal or another public hearing. Houseman said that while decisions on proposals are typically made within a 60-day period, extensions are possible.

Scherding said that the board will most likely hold a second hearing and that it may take some time for the board to deliver a decision.

In the meantime, he said that Dartmouth has been working “very aggressively” on the project and architects and engineers are completing all of the drawings and construction documents. Scherding added that the focus is on what will be constructed first in order to allow for construction to begin shortly after excavation.

The College hopes to have the approval process completed by the end of the fall, Scherding said.

Scherding added that he hopes to begin excavation on the parking lot right after Jan. 1. Under optimal conditions, the parking garage will be completed a year from now and the new Thayer building will be able to be completely utilized by fall 2021.

Griffin said that while Hanover will not expand its tax base from the Thayer building construction, total building permit revenue will be supplemented after the project proposal is approved.