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>  News Releases >   2008 >   July

Grafton County Superior Court upholds decisions of the Town of Hanover

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 07/09/08 • Media Contact: Susan Knapp • (603) 646-3661

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Approval of Dartmouth's proposed Life Sciences Center is confirmed

On July 2, the Superior Court of New Hampshire upheld the Town of Hanover's Zoning Board and Planning Board decisions allowing the construction of Dartmouth's Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center. The Occom Pond Neighborhood Association (OPNA) had challenged both the Zoning Board's determination that this was an "educational" use facility, and the Planning Board's site approval of the project.

Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center
Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center (artist rendering by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson)

Dartmouth's proposed Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center (LSC) will be located at the north end of the campus. The LSC will provide classrooms, teaching labs, and faculty labs for the 25 faculty and 1,800 students studying biology at Dartmouth. Construction cost estimate for the overall facility is $93 million, and it will have 174,500 square feet.

The facility will have spaces devoted to undergraduate- and graduate-level teaching and research, including classrooms, teaching laboratories, faculty laboratories, and offices for the Department of Biological Sciences. Among its features are a 6,000-square-foot greenhouse, a 200-seat auditorium, a third-floor sorghum and grasses green roof to help keep the building cool, a storm water management system that will reuse one million gallons of rain water annually, and a state-of-the-art energy management system.

"The Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center will be a national model of sustainable design, and is expected to consume one half of the energy of the best-performing laboratories currently in use in the United States," says Steve Campbell, the director of the office of planning, design and construction.

The start of the project has been delayed since November 2007, waiting for resolution of lawsuits against the Town of Hanover by the Occom Pond Neighborhood Association (OPNA) regarding town approval of plans for the facility. The OPNA is a neighborhood association comprised of Hanover citizens who live on Rope Ferry Road, Occom Ridge, and adjoining streets. 

"The Superior Court confirmed the Town of Hanover and the College's position that the College does not need a special exception because it is an educational use building," says Ellen Arnold, associate general counsel for Dartmouth. "In addition, the court found that Dartmouth's plans for this new building exceed the town's site plan requirements. Dartmouth met numerous times with abutters and neighbors; we modified the proposed building in response to neighbor concerns, provided improvements to other buildings in its vicinity, and will manage the construction activities in a way to ease the impact on the neighborhood. I'm very pleased that the Court recognized our efforts, and I hope we can begin construction soon."

The faculty and students in the Department of Biological Sciences are thrilled to see this decision from the Court, said Mary Lou Guerinot, professor of biological sciences. She added, "I'm relieved that the courts confirmed that this is an educational building. My colleagues and I are eager to get into this new space, and get on with our work of teaching and exploring the scientific frontiers of the Life Sciences with Dartmouth undergraduates and graduate students."

Brief Timeline:

  • On September 6, 2007, the Hanover Zoning Board confirmed the decision of the Hanover Zoning Administrator that Dartmouth's proposed Life Sciences Center was permitted in the Institutional zone (I-zone)
  • On Oct. 26, 2007 the Hanover Zoning Board unanimously confirmed, on re-hearing, its earlier unanimous decision that Dartmouth's proposed Life Sciences Center was permitted in the I-zone.
  • On Nov. 6, 2007, after four public meetings, the Hanover Planning Board unanimously approved the site plan for Dartmouth's Life Sciences Center. The site plan reviewed the impacts from all aspects of the project including the building features, lighting, noise, traffic, stormwater management, etc.
  • In December 2007, OPNA filed suit in the Grafton County Superior court against the Town of Hanover over both the Zoning Board decision and Planning Board approval. OPNA asked the court to review the Town's decisions and determine that they were illegal and/or unreasonable. Dartmouth was granted the intervener status in that action so the College could participate in defense of the Town's approvals.
  • In March 2008, a hearing on the lawsuits against both the Zoning Board and Planning Board took place in Grafton Superior Court in Haverhill, N.H., before Judge Timothy J. Vaughan.
  • In July 2008, Judge Vaughan ruled in favor of the Town of Hanover and Dartmouth, re-affirming that the LSC is an educational building and that the plan meets the site plan requirements of the Town of Hanover.

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