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Dartmouth Sorority House Green-Lighted

Hanover — The Dartmouth College trustees approved at its meeting last week a $3.5 million construction project to build a 23-bed Kappa Delta sorority house on campus, using a fraction of the college’s $982 million operating budget for the 2014 fiscal year.

The Hanover Planning and Zoning Office received and processed the project’s building permit application Wednesday, Senior Planner Vicki Smith said. The house at 1 Occom Ridge will be built partly atop an existing parking lot, and to accommodate student parking, construction on the eastern half of the lot will begin in July. Parking lot construction will cost $500,000. Construction on the house will start in September and is expected to be completed July 2014. The college expects the house to be occupied by the 2014-15 academic year.

The three-story structure will be located where Occom Ridge’s quiet residential neighborhood meets the end of Dartmouth’s frat row, the highest on-campus concentration of sorority and fraternity houses that line both sides of Webster Avenue and wrap onto the east side of Occom Ridge.

Kappa Delta became Dartmouth’s eighth sorority in 2010 and is the college’s only sorority housed in a residential hall. To make room for the new house, Dartmouth had to merge the three lots that hold sororities Delta Delta Delta and Epsilon Kappa Theta and fraternity Alpha Chi Alpha, on the corner of Occom Ridge and Webster Avenue.

The location for the Kappa Delta house is directly over an existing lot line between Delta Delta Delta on Occom Ridge and Epsilon Kappa Theta on Webster Avenue. Joe Broemel, senior project manager at Dartmouth, proposed the merger application at a Hanover Planning Board meeting in May. The proposal was unanimously approved.

During the meeting, the Planning Board approved the Kappa Delta house site plan, accepting public comment and outlining construction guidelines for the yearlong project.

During the meeting, Broemel said Dartmouth is responsible for construction traffic, which will be prohibited north of 3 Occom Ridge. Noisy construction at the property line will be restricted to 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Occom Ridge residents Jan and Rick Sayles, who live directly across the street from Delta Delta Delta and the lot where Kappa Delta will soon be, raised concerns about a visual buffer between the sorority and the rest of the neighborhood. But Woody Eckels, director of residential services at Dartmouth, said excess shrubbery would provide a place for people to hide and would make it difficult for the fire department to access the building from the street.

The proposal does attempt to address excess traffic on Occom Ridge, creating a new driveway on Webster Avenue that would lead to the parking lot behind Kappa Delta and provide parking for the surrounding fraternity and sorority houses.

All of Dartmouth’s sorority houses are owned and operated by the college, but most of the fraternity houses on campus are owned by the fraternities themselves.

The trustees also affirmed their commitment to open an affinity house on campus for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, a promise former President Jim Kim made before his departure.

“They were moving along at essentially the same time, but we are further along in the process with the sorority house,” Dartmouth spokesman Justin Anderson said. “The affinity house is next up and will be addressed in the coming months.”

Dartmouth officials told the Valley News last fall that they planned to open the affinity house to students by 2014. Anderson said they are optimistic about that goal, but Dartmouth is still trying to figure out how to pay for the estimated $3 million conversion of an existing structure at 4 N. Park St. into the 25-bed affinity house with a two-bedroom apartment for an adviser. The 4 N. Park St. building is occupied by Dartmouth staff and graduate students, but Anderson said leases were not renewed beyond this coming August.

“This house will be a reality, we just need to get budget approval,” Anderson said. “We know how much it costs and we’re committed to it. We just have to nail down the specifics.”

An LGBT affinity house has been in the works since at least 2010, and Alysson Satterlund, director of the Office of Pluralism and Leadership on campus, said the board will vote on next steps at its September meeting. “Dartmouth’s LGBTQ Alumni Association has been an active partner in this effort and we would like to thank them for their support and advocacy,” Satterlund wrote in an email. “We cannot wait to welcome them into this space when it opens.”

Katie Mettler can be reached at 603-727-3234 or kmettler@vnews.com.