Residents appeal lighting decision

by Maura Henninger | 8/26/98 5:00am

Seventeen Hanover residents are appealing what they claim to be an unjust misinterpretation of the zoning ordinance by the zoning board in favor of the College.

The issue being appealed to the Grafton County Superior Court involves the lighting poles the College wants to set up on Chase Athletic Field. In May, the zoning board decided the poles do not have to meet the town's height requirements.

Those appealing the decision have said they are concerned the poles will be too high and the artificial light will disrupt their homes and neighborhoods. The zoning board's decision, they wrote in the appeal, was "unlawful and unreasonable" and "contrary to the letter, spirit and intent" of the zoning ordinance.

The College is proposing to install eight or 12 light poles 60, 70 or 80 feet in height. Lighting banks almost 19 feet by four feet high would top the poles. The final height of the poles would rely on the results of a lighting study to be finished next month.

Associate College Counsel Sean Gorman said the College is presently filing a petition to intervene in the appeal. The petition, to which he said neither the town or neighbors object, would allow the College to participate in the appeal.

Director of Athletics Dick Jaeger said the College's stance was always complete adherence to all the rules, regulations and ordinances of the town. The poles, he said, are high enough and directed downward in such a way that minimal light is dispersed around the field area.

"We specifically made decisions when designing the lighting so that we could put up poles that would create optimal lighting but not spill out into neighborhoods," he said.

H. Bernard Waugh, chairman of the zoning board, told the Valley News the board did not show preferential treatment toward the College in their decision.

"We did the best we could with the language of the ordinance, which was internally inconsistent," Waugh told the Valley News.

The lawyer representing the neighbors, K. William Clauson, on the other hand, believes the zoning board allowed Dartmouth to do something it wouldn't have let a private citizen of Hanover to do.

In addition, Clauson wrote in a letter accompanying the Superior Court Appeal, "This strained interpretation in favor of Dartmouth College's desire to do what it wants is a product of a Board with members closely tied to Dartmouth College."

Four members of the five-member zoning board have ties to the College -- one is a College employee, one member's husband works for the College, one member has a Dartmouth degree and another has a master's degree from the College.

In the case of a zoning board hearing, Gorman said, where the College is involved, the members of the board at the outset, disclose publicly any affiliations with the College.

"Nothing was kept secret and I believe the chair asked if the members of the board would have any problems judging the case in an unbiased way. No one objected, including the current appellants," Gorman said.

Gorman would not comment on when or whether he thinks the Superior Court will hear the case.

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