Rugby house construction approved

by Maura Henninger | 7/2/98 5:00am

A Grafton County Superior Court justice has ruled the College may build its $2 million Rugby Clubhouse without the approval of the zoning board of adjustment, after an almost year-long legal battle.

Justice Edward J. Fitzgerald III decided the clubhouse qualifies as an educational tool, which, under the town's zoning ordinance, does not require a special exception.

"Education is not merely a program of reading, writing, and arithmetic," Fitzgerald wrote in his June 22 ruling.

Fitzgerald's decision upholds the zoning board's August 1997 decision that the clubhouse is part of the College's academic program.

"We've never sought a special exception for an athletic facility," Associate Counsel Sean Gorman told the Valley News.

The ruling also maintains Hanover's practice of granting the College exemption from the zoning law that requires special permission to build in a recreational zone. The same practice disallows residents from voicing concerns about how construction will affect their neighborhoods.

Men's Rugby Coach Wayne Young said he is pleased with the ruling which, he said, upholds the College's mission statement of including physical education as a graduation requirement.

The ruling contradicted the claims of Hanover resident Frederick Crory that the rugby clubhouse qualifies as a recreational facility and, therefore requires a special exception from the zoning board.

Crory said he was disappointed that Fitzgerald disagreed with his basis for claim. Crory has 30 days from the day of the ruling to appeal the decision.

"I had to laugh when I heard on the radio that it would be easier for Dartmouth to do outdoor recreation when the judge was saying the clubhouse was educational," he said.

Crory, a resident of Rip Road whose property is in close proximity to the proposed Reservoir Road clubhouse site, said he is mulling over whether to appeal and said he will move closer to a decision after meeting with his lawyer on Friday.

Crory said Hanover's zoning ordinance needs to be changed so no one -- including the College -- needs a special exception, according to the Valley News.

Crory had previously voiced concern about the possible lack of limitations on the hours of the clubhouse's operations, alcohol use in the facility and automobile traffic in the area.

Kevan Higgins '00, a member of the Dartmouth Rugby Football Club, feels Crory's fears were unwarranted, as the building is not intended for social use, except for formal ceremonies.

"The Dartmouth rugby program is, unlike many rugby teams throughout national colleges and universities, fairly serious and competitive, and I feel that we were unfairly judged by the reputation of our sport and not that of our teams," Higgins said.

If there is no appeal, the College will go ahead with construction either this fall or early next spring, associate director of facilities planning George Hathorn said in the Valley News.

Past College projects, such as the Dartmouth Outing Club House, the Dragon senior society facility near Occum Pond and the Roth Center for Jewish Life have run into zoning controversies as well.

In all these cases, the projects were successfully completed.

The construction of the clubhouse is already behind schedule. Originally slated for completion by May 1998, the clubhouse might be done in time for use by the 2000 spring season, Young said.

Young said construction costs go up while the building is pending approval.

"I'm sure before they give us the final okay, the senior College administration will have to look at the plans again and double-check everything," Young said.

"Finally it can be started and that is a relief to all because of the time and energy invested in this project will finally begin to pay off," women's rugby team member Erin Broderick '99 said.

According to the town's zoning ordinance, any building associated with outdoor recreation has to be granted a special exception. The zoning board must consider its effects on the surrounding area, its residents, town services and facilities.

Residents then have the right to voice their opinions about the positive and negative effects resulting from construction.

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