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Town Continues to Hammer AD

The Valley News is reporting on another dispute between Alpha Delta and the Town of Hanover zoning administrator:

In April, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled against Alpha Delta in a long-running argument over whether the fraternity’s $1.4 million house across from the Alumni Gym could be used as a student residence without the college’s blessing.

Now, fraternity leaders are hoping to use the property as office space for their alumni, and are seeking to overturn a decision by the town zoning administrator that blocked the practice last month….

The “institutional” zoning district that the house occupies allows offices, provided that the desired use “relate(s) to the uses of the institution having ownership interest in land” — that is, to the institutional uses of Alpha Delta, Zoning Administrator Judith Brotman told the fraternity in a Sept. 8 letter.

After reviewing recent articles of agreement that establish the purpose of the Dartmouth Corporation of Alpha Delta Fraternity, the alumni-run group that owns the property, Brotman said that offices did not fall within the group’s capacity, and therefore could not be permitted under zoning code.

The articles say the corporation will:

A. Acquire, manage and hold property for the use and benefit of the college Greek letter fraternity know(n) as “Alpha Delta” at Dartmouth College and the alumni of said fraternity, so long as said fraternity shall remain in existence, and thereafter in support of (charitable) activities;

B. Promote the general cause of literary and scientific education in connection with social life of undergraduates of Dartmouth College; and

C. Lease, buy, sell, mortgage, use, hold and manage all such property, real and personal, and … take such other action do all things that may be reasonably necessary, proper, advisable or convenient to undertake, effectuate and carry out the foregoing princip(les).

“The renting of office space for commercial tenancy clearly does not fall within these purposes, and therefore, I find that that is not a permitted use, and deny a zoning permit,” Brotman said.

She also argued that Alpha Delta no longer exists as a fraternity at Dartmouth, and therefore the house can only be used for charitable activities.

On the face of it, the effort by the Town appears prejudicial in the extreme. I own several companies and have dealt with zoning administrators and zoning boards on numerous occasions, and never once has anyone related to zoning asked about my businesses’ corporate purposes as described in their articles of incorporation. Zoning rules run with the land itself, not the legal goals of a corporation. Is an activity legally allowed or not on a property? If not, under the zoning laws, then not. Otherwise, the zoning administrator has nothing to say. As for articles of incorporation, that’s a matter for the NH Secretary of State, who, I expect, has far better things to do than review age-old paperwork.

Perhaps AD can amend its corporate charter, though that hardly seems necessary. A corporation’s articles of incorporation are only so much boilerplate — usually they contain a big-enough-to-drive-a-truck-through clause like “and any other legal purpose.”

My instinct is that the College’s General Counsel’s office is working hand-in-glove with the Town on this issue — doing research and feeding arguments to the Town — as part of the Hanlon administration’s ongoing effort to destroy the fraternity system.

Addendum: Curiously, the Town does not seem to oblige the administration to limit itself to activities included in the College’s own charter:

KNOW YE, THEREFORE that We, considering the premises and being willing to encourage the laudable and charitable design of spreading Christian knowledge among the savages of our American wilderness, and also that the best means of education be established in our province of New Hampshire, for the benefit of said province, do, of our special grace, certain knowledge and mere motion, by and with the advice of our counsel for said province, by these presents, will, ordain, grant and constitute that there be a college erected in our said province of New Hampshire by the name of Dartmouth College, for the education and instruction of youth of the Indian tribes in this land in reading, writing, and all parts of learning which shall appear necessary and expedient for civilizing and christianizing children of pagans, as well as in all liberal arts and sciences, and also of English youth and any others. And the trustees of said college may and shall be one body corporate and politic, in deed, action and name, and shall be called, named and distinguished by the name of the Trustees of Dartmouth College.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

One of the many chinks in the Town/College’s armor is the word “institutional.” You can’t say that using AD as a boarding house is impermissible because that does not fit the institutional purposes of Dartmouth, and at the same time say that AD can’t use its own property for offices because that does not fit the institutional purposes of AD. (Well, actually, you can say that, and they have.) But you can’t have it both ways. Because if “institutional” refers to AD, then having it as a boarding house (or whatever) does fit their (AD’s) institutional purpose (staying solvent) and is thereby allowable.

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