Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism. Support independent student journalism.
The Dartmouth
May 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Zoning proposals challenge College

The College is gearing up to go head to head with a group of Hanover residents who have proposed amendments to town zoning laws. College Provost Barry Scherr said the amendments -- which will be voted on at the annual Hanover Town Meeting on May 13th -- will impede construction of the planned life sciences complex, but petitioning citizens argue that the amendments will help ease transitions from residential to College zones.

Though the Hanover Planning Board -- the group that oversees changes to zoning ordinances -- voted unanimously against recommending the amendments, they will still be up for at-large vote on May 13. According to Hanover Planning and Zoning Director Jonathan Edwards, one of the board's main reasons against recommending the amendments was their late submission.

Scherr also claimed that the amendments were too hasty and that they would have "unintended -- and, we think, undesirable -- consequences" for the long-term expansion of the College. New dormitories and a planned social dining hall would be among the first projects impacted.

Heidi Eldred, Hanover citizen and a petitioner for the amendments, claims that the College is overstating the effect of the changes.

"There has been a feeling on the part of many of those who live in the neighborhood near where the College wants to expand that the College comes with full-blown plans, and there is little input from the neighborhoods," said Eldred. "We are just interested in creating a gentler transition between [institutional]-zones and residential zones."

Despite this current tension, Eldred felt that there was a chance for the College and the town to have a mutually beneficial relationship. "It's definitely possible to get into a situation where you've got parties talking to each other," she said.

The first of the proposed amendments, number seven on the ballot, lowers the maximum height of a building from 60 to 45 feet if the building is placed between 150 and 300 feet from the residential zone.

Currently, buildings can be 60 feet tall unless they are within 150 feet of a residential zone. Within 150 feet, they must be no more than 35 feet tall.

According to Scherr this could "in effect knock off a floor that may be built in some buildings."

Scherr felt that this would force the College to build shorter buildings with a greater footprint that would sacrifice aesthetically-pleasing green spaces around campus.

The second of the proposed amendments, number eight on the ballot, states that "for buildings and parking facilities serving 20 or more vehicles on lots adjoining residential districts the minimum side and rear setbacks adjoining the districts shall be 75 feet."

The third of the proposed amendments, number nine of the ballot, states that "for buildings on lots adjoining residential districts the minimum side and rear setbacks adjoining the districts shall be 75 feet and the minimum front yard setback within 300 feet of the adjoining districts shall be 30 feet."

Hanover citizens can propose amendments to the town zoning laws if they gather 25 signatures for their proposed amendment. However, such a move would be "fairly unusual," according to Edwards.

At the Planning Board Meeting on April 1, Scherr said he believed that the amendments would affect more than 170 acres of College-owned land.

In the minutes from the Hanover Planning Board meeting, amendment supporter Eldred said that this amendment would provide "a sense of disbursement, transition and pace in recognition of neighborhood life versus college campus life."

The College currently has plans to build a new life sciences complex and new parking lot attached to Dartmouth Medical School on College Street. The College also looks to build a new cluster of dormitories that could house nearly 500 students in the area that is currently the medical school parking lot.

Additionally, there are plans for a new social dining hall to be built near the new super-cluster of dormitories and adjacent to Dick's House.

According to College Planning Director Reed Bergwall, this new dining facility would be affected by the new restrictions, as the structure, which would rise to an approximate height of 60 feet, would now fall within the 45-foot maximum height zone.

"Social dining might not happen as fast as it otherwise would," he said.

Bergwall also said he was concerned about what kind of precedent these amendments would set.

"Our concern about precedent is that [petition] is a poor way to decide zoning," Bergwall said.

Edwards had requested that all amendments be submitted by Nov. 15, 2002 in order for the Planning Board to have time to carefully research each of the ideas. The amendments in question were received in mid-February.

In an open letter, Provost Scherr listed several existing Dartmouth buildings including Memorial Stadium, McCullough Hall, Byrne Hall, LALACS House, the Native American house and Sherman House as being in breach of the new regulations. Parking lots at the Medical School and the Thayer School of Engineering would also be in violation.

Though the amendments would not affect these buildings, it would affect similarly-designed buildings, or additions to the buildings.