Neighborhood group protests new building

by Nick Swanson | 12/4/07 3:20am

As a result of a recent court challenge by the Occom Pond Neighborhood Association, construction on the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center will be on hold until March.

The filing in Grafton Superior Court is an appeal of the Hanover Planning Board's unanimous Nov. 6 decision to approve the site plan for the center, which would be built on Dartmouth Medical School property.

To begin construction, the College needs to obtain building permits, which cannot be given while an appeal is pending, according to Dartmouth Community Relations Director Peter Glenshaw. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for early March.

Stephen Campbell, director of the College's Office of Planning, Design and Construction, said in an October interview with The Dartmouth that he hoped the shell of the building would be completed by December, with the $93 million center scheduled to open in March 2010.

Campbell could not be reached for comment on these latest developments.

The purpose of the appeal is not to halt construction altogether, said Barry Schuster, attorney for the Occom Pond Neighborhood Association. Rather, the appeal intends to force the College to address how the building may adversely affect those who live near the proposed site.

"170,000 square feet is more than two Wal-Marts, it will have adverse impacts on those who live around it," Schuster said, referring to the proposed size of the center. "The neighbors are looking to address these issues."

Schuster highlighted noise and light output as two of the primary issues that the association sought to resolve through the appeal.

"We hope that the construction will move on but those up close are bearing the brunt of this," he said.

The College has listened to community input concerning the center and has altered it plans accordingly, Glenshaw said. For instance, at the suggestion of community members, automatic shades will be added to the north side of the center to limit light output.

According to Dick Mackay, who has lived on Occom Ridge for 20 years, three people in the area are leading the appeal process. The majority of his neighbors are not concerned by the construction, he said.

"I have no strong feelings on [the construction of the life sciences building]," Mackay said. "It has been approved by the town boards and now it should go ahead."

The College has sent a letter to all residents in the area surrounding the center detailing the conditions of the construction. These conditions, which Mackay described as "more than adequate," will chiefly limit the hours and days that the construction can occur and allow for a "noise patroller" to monitor the building site.

Wes Chapman, president of the neighborhood group, did not return requests for comment by press time.

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