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The Dartmouth
May 29, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Macri: Your Votes Last Year Delivered Progress, So Vote Again This Tuesday

Voting on Tuesday, May 9 for Jennie Chamberlain and voting yes on all of the Hanover Planning Board’s zoning amendments will continue Hanover’s great housing progress.

Last May, the town of Hanover did something amazing.

In a cross-community vote, both student and non-student groups united in support of the Main Wheelock District, a zoning amendment supported by the Hanover Planning Board that David Millman ’23 and I petitioned onto the ballot. Passing by a margin of 210 votes — showing the huge impact of each individual voter — the Main Wheelock District legalized high-density walkable housing along W Wheelock St.

Throughout that campaign, I talked with hundreds of Hanover’s residents, begging them to care and vote. I’m not oblivious to the fact that the phrase “zoning amendment” doesn’t inspire the most interest, but that election mattered. If those who voted hadn’t shown up, so much wouldn’t have been possible.

With Hanover’s median home price at nearly $900,000, housing scarcity abounds. So many people want to live in an amazing place like this, but our laws make building that desperately needed housing impossible. I remember vividly when Dartmouth College announced a housing lottery for the fall of 2021, which tried to pay students to stop complaining about the housing shortage. This problem doesn’t just affect students. Many of our town government’s employees can’t afford to live in Hanover, and every Dartmouth staff member I’ve worked with cannot afford to live here either. The people who keep Hanover running are effectively excluded from the fruits of their labor.

Hanover cannot go on like this. Our seniors need caregivers, our students need teachers and professors, our businesses need employees and all these people need housing. Hanover has countless opportunities — education, employment and retirement — but housing vacancy rates are at historic lows of 0.5%. Unless we want a dysfunctional town where only the wealthy can afford to live, we need to build more housing in Hanover.

I’ve sat through countless Planning Board meetings, but the May 2 meeting made me reflect on how impactful the vote of each person last year really was. After nearly a year since voters enacted the Main Wheelock District, the construction of a new home for 91 people — located at 14 W Wheelock St — received final Planning Board approval.

The new 14 W Wheelock St will add 76 new beds to our housing supply, converting a current run-down building with 15 beds into a modern, accessible and well-designed apartment building that will give homes to 91 people in total. While it would’ve been illegal to construct before last year’s vote, this building will provide housing with walkability, accessibility and resident comfort in mind. Importantly, it’s still being constructed at cost-conscious prices that support housing affordability. The vote for final approval was unanimous, representing the hard efforts of the Hanover Planning Board to improve the initial designs and build cross-community support without removing any beds. Seeing this conclusion of over a year of reform made me proud. It shows what’s possible when Hanover unites to solve problems like housing unaffordability.

This Tuesday, we can continue that progress, but we need your vote to do it. Since September, I’ve worked with zoning officials to find how we can preserve Hanover’s wonderful nature while still providing housing for all. Through the past year’s public process, we’ve crafted six great zoning amendments that will keep Hanover wonderful while expanding housing opportunity, and the Hanover Planning Board has endorsed all six of these amendments. Focused on expanding housing opportunity, these amendments will ensure that we promote the construction of more walkable housing near Hanover’s core instead of sprawling outwards. As I know legalese can be puzzling, I have written plain-English explanations of each amendment here.

Beyond the zoning amendments, Hanover is electing the Selectboard, which governs our town. Throughout my time in Hanover, I’ve witnessed Jennie Chamberlain, chair of Hanover’s Bike Walk Committee, work tirelessly to make Hanover better for everyone. Whether it’s advocating for sustainable housing, helping the Dunster/Wyeth neighborhood obtain crosswalk safety devices so kids can cross without fear or working with principals to improve street safety for Hanover’s middle schoolers, she’s gone to bat for Hanover time and time again, bringing town government closer to everyday people. Electing her to our Selectboard will ensure that our town government ends the housing crisis, supports a vibrant downtown and listens to everybody in our community. Jennie Chamberlain will continue Hanover’s great progress, and I urge you to learn about her great candidacy here.

But all of this potential progress — whether that’s electing a champion for housing and transportation accessibility like Jennie Chamberlain or supporting the hard work of Hanover’s Planning Board and its zoning amendments — is only possible if you vote. If 211 voters hadn’t shown up to the polls last year, the home for 91 people just approved at 14 W Wheelock St would have been illegal to build. I know that the walk to Hanover High School may seem far, but when you vote, you can directly pass the changes that our whole community is uniting to create: a Hanover where everyone can afford to live.

Through one simple act of voting, you can keep up this momentum and help our town government end the housing crisis. This Tuesday, May 9, I ask you to make the difference that will deliver a brighter future for everyone in Hanover. Any US citizen living in Hanover can register at the polls on Election Day. All you need is a Dartmouth ID or New Hampshire driver’s license. Please go to Hanover High School on Tuesday, May 9 anytime from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and vote yes on all zoning amendments and for the great advocate Hanover has in Jennie Chamberlain. Only together can we achieve a Hanover with housing for all.

Nicolás Macri ’24 is a member of the Hanover Bike Walk Committee, the President of Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the Liaison to the Town Government of Hanover for the Student Government of Dartmouth College. Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.

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