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Hazard Signs at Former Inn Worry Neighbors

Hanover — The black and orange biohazard signs posted on virtually all of the doors at the former Chieftain Motor Inn are not indicative of some glowing green sludge oozing from within, the building’s new owners said Monday.

Instead, the signs have been placed to deter anyone from entering the building while asbestos is removed in advance of it being torn down, said officials at Kendal at Hanover, the retirement community that recently acquired the old motel.

“We just felt that, because we were going to be there doing abatement, we thought it was in the public’s best interest to have it posted,” said Rebecca Smith, Kendal’s executive director.

Neighbors and passers-by started questioning the biohazard signs on a community Facebook page earlier this month, when one of the commenters wondered whether the signs could be related to “nitrates and other hazardous materials” from the Army’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, a short distance south on Route 10.

Smith said the asbestos was limited to nonpublic areas of the building, such as the boiler room and basement , and was “(less than) typical of what would have been found” in most structures from the early 1950s, when the building was built.

Still, she said, out of an abundance of caution, “we don’t want someone going in there” while the process is ongoing.

Kendal has begun the permitting process to tear the building down, which it hopes to do by the end of November or December, Smith said.

Kendal officials still haven’t decided upon plans for the property, Smith said.

The retirement community announced in March an agreement to purchase the 11-acre parcel from the former Chieftain owners, who said financial constraints had forced them to close and sell the iconic inn, which was frequently used by Dartmouth College alumni.

Kendal would likely need to petition the town to alter ordinances if it chose to build more residential units at the location, Town Manager Julia Griffin said in March. Smith said there are no plans to do so before the next Town Meeting.

Meanwhile, the department has been using the building for training exercises since Kendal took ownership in mid-September, said Fire Capt. Jeremy Thibeault.

None of the practice drills used live fire , he said. He expects exercises to continue until the building is torn down.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.