Hanover — The Planning Board on Tuesday night listened to outcry from residents over an athletic facility that Dartmouth College plans to build near a neighborhood east of campus.
The 70,000-square-foot indoor practice complex would cost about $17.5 million to construct, according to college schematics, and is intended to give athletes a longer window to train during the colder months.
Abutters around Tyler Road say the proposed structure’s appearance and size would alter the character of their neighborhood, and they have launched a website and a letter-writing campaign in opposition.
Tuesday night’s review before the Planning Board, which drew more than 60 concerned residents, lasted just under three hours and was continued without action to another date.
Bob Ceplikas, Dartmouth’s deputy director of athletics, made an effort to counter some of the opponents’ points and “present a different perspective on that project that I hope will give you a different point of view.”
Ceplikas gave a thorough accounting of the college’s many meetings this fall and winter with residents, and pointed out the landscaping changes that administrators had made in response to their concerns. Although Dartmouth had considered an alternative site suggested by neighbors, he said, the athletic program’s space needs required a field house be built at that particular location.
The deputy director cast the new building as a “natural progression” based on the existing Leverone Field House, Thompson Arena and Alexis Boss Tennis Center.Opposing neighbors have circulated scale diagrams showing their houses — and a jumbo jet — fitting inside the indoor practice facility, and Ceplikas pointed out that the proposed structure was comparable in size to the buildings that already were there.
“The neighbors are right on,” Ceplikas said. “You can fit a Boeing 747 into that indoor practice facility” — but so too in Leverone, he said, plus a 737.
“I think it’s very important that one can place these things in a certain context to get a certain reaction,” he said.
John Colligan, a Dana Road resident, said Ceplikas had told good stories in 1997 about a pending development proposal from the college and was doing the same thing Tuesday night about the proposal for an indoor practice facility
Colligan said Ceplikas hadn’t adequately addressed abutters’ primary concern: the effect on surrounding residents.
“If we’re going to destroy a neighborhood so that Dartmouth athletes can practice punting in the winter, something is terribly wrong,” he said.
Tyler Road resident Maureen Doyle said hers was one of the houses that had appeared in the diagrams.
“I’m also a Dartmouth Class of 1985 (member),” she said, “and so mad I want to pop.”
She turned back to the crowd and asked how many people had some affiliation with the college. About 20 hands went up.
“Now this is Dartmouth,” she said, gesturing to those people — and then added, to administrators: “What are you doing?”
One neighbor, Planning Board member Kelly Dent, in May filed a zoning appeal against the project, saying a town administrator had incorrectly measured the building’s height.
Dartmouth appeared to back down, saying it would alter the height as neighbors wished, but Dent said she wasn’t satisfied: She and others wanted the project moved elsewhere.
Some abutters, moreover, claimed the college simply planned to alter the pitch of the roof, rather than its peak height, so as to meet code. At Tuesday night’s meeting, Director of Campus Design and Construction John Scherding said this was not true: the peak and eaves of the building were moved down about 2 feet, he said.
Dent recused herself as a board member on Tuesday, sitting aside from the panel and remaining silent for the discussion.
The Planning Board will address the project again at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, when it is scheduled to conduct a site visit beginning at the Thompson Arena parking lot.
Rob Wolfe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3242.
Hanover resident John Colligan, a University of New Hampshire graduate, said Dartmouth College Deputy Director of Athletics Bob Ceplikas had told good stories in 1997 about a pending development proposal from the college and was doing the same thing Tuesday night about Dartmouth’s proposal for an indoor practice facility. An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Colligan’s alma mater and inaccurately described his response to Ceplikas.