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Hanover zoning peititon would redefine student residences

Union Leader Correspondent

April 17. 2017 8:29PM
The Alpha Delta fraternity at Dartmouth College in Hanover can no longer house students. (MEGHAN PIERCE/CORRESPONDENT)

HANOVER — The May town meeting warrant includes eight zoning amendments for voters to consider on May 9.

Included is a petition article that asks voters to change the definition of student residence. Under the new definition, a student residence would not be required to be affiliated with an institution.

The Hanover Zoning Board is recommending voters reject the petition, saying that two separate rulings from the Zoning Board of Adjustment have already clarified the current definition.

A Hanover attorney who is representing Dartmouth College fraternities Sigma Alpha Epsilon and Alpha Delta in separate legal appeals of the board’s decisions crafted the petition article.

The Sigma Alpha Epsilon case is still pending.

Last week, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that the former Alpha Delta fraternity house can no longer house Dartmouth College students. Dartmouth College revoked the fraternity’s charter two years ago over rules violations. Without being run in conjunction with an institution, the 12 to 18 students could no longer live in the fraternity house.

The Planning Board also cited the pending litigation as a reason to vote the petition article down. Additionally, planners said, the change would eliminate direct health and safety oversite of student residences currently provided by having an affiliation with an institution.

The seven other zoning amendments were proposed and endorsed by the Planning Board, said Planning and Zoning Director Robert Houseman.

One would eliminate student residences as a permitted use in the residential/office (RO) district, he said. If approved by voters, student residences such as dorms, fraternities and sororities would only be allowed in the institution district. The large institution district is currently the only place all existing student residences are located.

“The Planning Board thinks this is a good idea to concentrate these types of student residences close to campus. Currently, there are no student residences located in the RO district,” Houseman said. “We’re deleting a use that for all practical purposes doesn’t exist today.”

Houseman said students do live in the RO district, but a town zoning regulation prohibits more than three unrelated people living together. Therefore, students living together in non-student residences are regulated by that town zoning law.

Proposed zoning changes also include two articles that would loosen restrictions on senior housing, making senior housing development regulations the same as regulations governing all other housing development in town.

Houseman said that when reviewing the current zoning regulations recently, Planning Board members realized the current regulations require at least 50 acres when a regular housing development only requires 5 acres. Requiring larger lot sizes and bigger setbacks isolates these types of developments from the center of town, Housman said.

The proposed amendment would allow the town to double the density of the town-owned affordable senior housing development, Summer Park, Houseman said.

Another amendment would expand the definition of senior housing, changing, “continuing care retirement community” with “senior housing development,” allowing for more flexibility in what the facility offers.

Town meeting is planned to take place May 9 at Hanover High School. The ballot voting for elected officials and zoning amendments will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The business meeting session of town meeting to vote on 10 more warrant article begins at 7 p.m.

University Local and County Government Hanover