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College to Appeal Zoning Decision
The College has taken a principled stand: it will appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court the Hanover Planning Board’s denial — subsequently supported by a decision by Grafton County Judge Peter Bornstein — of the College’s application for planning permission to build a large new fieldhouse next to the Boss tennis center:
The Office of Communications issued a short statement last week about the appeal:
The College believes that the New Hampshire Superior Court decision of Sept. 21 significantly and mistakenly expands Planning Board discretion in the review of building projects. The potential impact of the decision extends well beyond Dartmouth and is relevant to others in the state committed to responsible development based upon clear and definite standards of design and review. We are concerned about appropriately defining the scope of a planning board’s power to interpret and apply zoning and planning regulations. It is for this reason that we intend to appeal.
I commented on the matter on January 9 this year:
The issue here is one of property rights. The landowners who own homes next to the College’s institutional district have no right to assume that the pretty “sunken field” across the street from them will remain green and untouched for eternity. Dartmouth had already built Thompson Arena, the Boss Tennis Center and the Scully-Fahey stadium in that area, and the Town’s zoning ordinance does not stand in the way of an additional facility. While Hanover’s overall planning ordinance does take into account the Town’s aesthetics (maximum building heights; no commercial buildings in residential neighborhoods, etc.), the Planning Board itself does not sit in arbitrary and unlimited judgement on the look and impact of individual new buildings. It is duty bound to uphold the law. That the Board now arrogates to itself such a subjective and unfettered power should put fear in the hearts of citizens.
Put a different way, when an individual owner or an institution like the College wants to build on a property, it deserves to be able to understand the legal limitations on development by consulting the relevants statutes, building codes and zoning laws well before it spends time and large sums of money on planning and design. To do all of this work and then face a citizen’s planning board that judges if a structure is “harmonious and aesthetically pleasing” is a process that is both inefficient and open to endless abuse.
On the other side of the equation, the people who purchase land next to the institutional district should accept that they do so in the full knowledge of the College’s legal rights to build as enshrined in the law. They probably purchased their homes at a discount because of this specific location.
For the neighbors now to plead that they find the fieldhouse building too large — when it fully complies with zoning regulations — is akin to the paradigmatic first-year-of-law-school case wherein people build a house next to a hog farm and then sue over the smell. They knew what they were getting into, and so did the College’s neighbors.
This dispute is decidedly not a town-gown issue. It involves only the respect of a property owner’s right to rely on the clear terms of the written law, and not risk having a project upended by a citizens’ board that caves into pressure from noisy, NIMBY neighbors.
Addendum: If the Supreme Court upholds the Hanover Planning Board’s decision, the consequences will be certain: businesses will shy away from Hanover out of a concern that late in the planning/permitting process, the untrained and unrestrained citizens on the Planning Board can derail a project on little more than a whim. De gustibus non est disputandum is certainly true when a citizens’ board can wield unrestrained power based on no more than their personal sense of aesthetics.
August 14, 2013
Breaking: Of Crips and Bloods and Memories of Ghetto Parties
History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce, or sometimes it just repeats itself. From the New York Times on November 30, 1998: At Dartmouth College, white students at a ”ghetto party” dressed…
June 25, 2013
Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson’s War on Students Part (2/2)
Part 1, Part 2 Today’s post again recounts the events that befell the Freshman. However, the content of the Hanover Police department report reproduced in this space yesterday is supplemented by information from my own…
October 18, 2009
When Love Beckoned in 52nd Street
We were at San Francisco’s BIX last evening, enjoying prosecco, cheese, and a bit of music. A full year of inhabitation in Northern California has unraveled to me no decent venue for proper lounging, but…
October 9, 2009
D Afraid of a Little Competish
So our colleague and Dartblog writer Joe Asch informed me that the D has rejected our cunning advertising campaign. Uh-oh. The Dartmouth is widely known as a breeding ground for instant New York Times successes,…
September 4, 2009
How Regents Should Reign
As Dartmouth alumni proceed through the legal hoops necessary to defuse a Board-packing plan—which put in unhappy desuetude an historic 1891 Agreement between alumni and the College guaranteeing a half-democratically-elected Board of Trustees—it strikes one…
August 29, 2009
Election Reform Study Committee
If you are an alum of the College on the Hill, you may have received a number of e-mails of late beseeching your input for a new arm of the College’s Alumni Control Apparatus called…
- The Dartmouth College Case
- 2007 Trustee Election
- Dartmouth Constitution
- Sunday Morning Sinatra
- The Indian Wars
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