Worth Knowing: Dartmouth gets go ahead from NH Supreme Court to build enormous practice facility in residential neighborhood

Artist's rendering of Dartmouth's new training facility shown adjacent to Boss Tennis Center

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has given Dartmouth College the green light to build a much-contested 70,000 square foot indoor practice facility adjacent to a residential neighborhood in Hanover. Hanover's Planning Board had denied site plan approval for the athletic facility in December of 2016, and a New Hampshire Superior Court upheld that denial in 2017. But the Supreme Court disagreed.

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In a ruling released yesterday, the Supreme Court found that members of the Planning Board had unreasonably relied upon personal feelings in denying the College's application for site plan approval. The Court found that members of the Planning Board had essentially made up their own minds that the proposed project was too large and imposing, too close to the abutting neighborhood and not a harmonious or aesthetically appealing fit. Instead of relying on personal feelings, members of the Planning Board should have looked solely to the zoning ordinance and other regulations, which the Court found supported site plan approval.

“(T)he evidence does not reasonably support the trial court’s findings. The certified record confirms that the 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,” says the decision, written by Associate Justice Patrick Donovan. The Supreme Court's opinion was unanimous at 4-0.

College officials were delighted by the ruling and are now going to consider proposals from construction managers to move the project forward. While the Town has 10 days to appeal the ruling, it looks like the project will move forward.

Overhead of College athletic facilities with new training building depicted with blue roof

Neighbors of the proposed facility were very unhappy with the ruling. Many had spoken against the project at public meetings before the Planning Board's denial, claiming the facility would have a disproportionately negative impact on the residents of the Tyler/Conant Road neighborhood.

The College has promoted the indoor facility as a means to increase practice time for teams and for use by club sports and other recreational activities. As the northernmost Ivy League institution, Dartmouth College athletes don’t have as much practice time as some of their competitors due to a lack of indoor space, Athletic Director Harry Sheehy said. The facility, with artificial turf, will be used year-round by soccer, football, lacrosse, softball, and other teams.

The 70,000-square-foot facility, will be funded entirely through gifts to the College and will be built near the similarly sized Boss center and Thompson Arena. Also in the area are a number of outdoor playing fields and tennis courts.

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