NH ruled College allowed to build 70,000 square-foot indoor facility

by Elizabeth Janowski | 11/13/18 3:00am

Hanover’s cold winters will soon no longer freeze the training schedules of Dartmouth’s sports teams. The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled in a decision on Nov. 6 that the Hanover planning board improperly denied the College’s application to begin construction on an indoor athletic practice facility. Following the court’s decision, the College will resume its plans to build the 70,000 square-foot facility in the open space adjacent to the Boss Tennis Center off of South Park Street.

“I think it’s going to be a tremendous addition,” Dartmouth head football coach Buddy Teevens ’79 said. “As a northern-based school, we have a finite amount of time to practice in the spring, so having a place to practice that’s covered and warm will be beneficial to a lot of teams.”

The court ruled unanimously in favor of reversing a 2017 Superior Court decision that upheld the Hanover Planning Board’s initial rejection of the site proposal, finding that the previous holdings were based on individual sentiments rather than broader considerations.

“[T]he board based its denial of Dartmouth’s application upon subjective and personal feelings, and the trial court unreasonably adopted a rationale not supported by the record to affirm the board’s decision,” associate justice Patrick Donovan wrote in the court’s decision last week.

Talks of an indoor practice facility began within the College administration as early as 2013, according to College executive vice president Rick Mills.

Dartmouth submitted its application for the facility to the Hanover planning board in March 2016. In the following months, residents of the houses on Tyler and Chase roads, which are situated near the proposed site, voiced concerns over the size and appearance of the facility, as well as its potential to obstruct sunlight from their properties. Dartmouth addressed these concerns by revising the facility’s design and agreeing to comply with the planning board’s 21 conditions for its construction.

“We spent a lot of time as we went through the process working with the planning board and the neighbors to find a way to build a facility that met our needs while doing as much as possible to accommodate the preferences of our neighbors,” Mills said.

In December 2016, the planning board voted 4-1 to deny the College’s application, citing the facility’s negative impact on nearby residents and its failure to conform with the “harmonious and aesthetically pleasing development of the town” as principal reasons for the decision.

Planning board chairwoman Judith Esmay cast the sole vote in favor of the facility’s construction.

“I could find nothing in our state or local law that would permit us to disapprove of what the College wanted to do,” Esmay said.

Esmay noted that she supports the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the ruling against the facility. She said she does not believe the planning board will pursue any further action against the College.

According to Mills, the College has already begun to reach out to contractors and construction managers for the project. Construction on the project may commence as early as spring 2019, he said.

“We’re pleased to have won the case … but I think as we continue, we want to be as good of neighbors as we can possibly be,” Mills said. “We’ll continue to look for ways we can work with the neighborhood to help make the facility more acceptable.”

The facility’s construction will cost a projected $23.5 million, according to associate vice president for planning, design and construction John Scherding.

Teevens expressed excitement over the opportunities for more efficient and consistent athletic practices that the new practice facility would offer. He noted that in the case of cold or inclement weather, the football team still typically practices outdoors, which raises concerns over the safety of the players. While Leverone Fieldhouse currently operates as another indoor practice facility, he said its limited size and hard floors — which can cause harm to an athlete’s joints — are reasons he tends to avoid holding practices there.

“To have something now that is appreciably bigger than Leverone [Fieldhouse] — while still having Leverone [Fieldhouse] — is a huge development,” Teevens said. “It takes the stress off training for a lot of different teams.”

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