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Dartmouth is revising the 17-year-old master plan that guides expansion projects

  • Steven Friese, of Hanover, runs past the Hanover (N.H.) Country Club with his dog Cleatus Saturday, April 20, 2019. As part of the master plan being developed by Dartmouth College, a campus expansion into part of the land currently occupied by the golf course is being considered. Dartmouth Athletic Director Harry Sheehy said that the golf course will remain open through the 2020 season. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Sunday, April 21, 2019

HANOVER — Dartmouth College is developing a new master plan — 17 years since its last one — as residents continue to wonder whether the campus could expand north along Route 10, and elsewhere in town.

While the master plan will examine all of the college’s properties, from the Moosilauke Ravine Lodge, a cabin complex in the White Mountains, to potential renovations of buildings on campus, Hanover residents are especially interested in the future of the Hanover Country Club and plans for graduate student housing.

College officials have not ruled out future development along Route 10 north of campus in what is now the golf course.

“We have committed to operating the golf course through the 2020 season. Continued operation of the golf course beyond that point will depend on the outcome of the master planning effort,” Josh Keniston, Dartmouth’s vice president for institutional projects, said last week.

The 9-month process for the master plan is already underway with a projected completion date in November. A master plan for a town or institution serves as an aspirational document of the institution’s future.

In particular, Dartmouth Director of Campus Planning Joanna Whitcomb said the document will identify “a menu of opportunities,” ranging from underutilized areas on campus to buildings that are energy inefficient.

Whether the campus will grow beyond the Dewey Parking lot on Lyme Road, aka Route 10, is also a key question. Dartmouth owns the Hanover Country Club and a site farther north along the Connecticut River known as Rivercrest that previously held 30 duplex housing units built in the late 1950s, and which were razed a few years ago.

In an editorial board meeting with the Valley News last year, Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon said he would not rule the possibility of expansion along Route 10 but added that an unfinished master plan from 2013 advocated for maintaining the campus within its current boundaries.

“The land is very precious, it is very important for the college and (we) certainly have no thoughts or intentions of selling the land ... (but) I’m not going to sit and rule anything out in the future. I’m not going to tie the hands of my successor,” Hanlon said at the time.

The development of a new master plan was started in 2012 but was never completed nor was a draft made available to the public following the departure of then-Dartmouth president Jim Yong Kim.

Dartmouth athletic director Harry Sheehy acknowledged the role of the master plan in the golf course’s uncertain future, in a recent email addressed to “Friends of Dartmouth Golf.”

“The Hanover Country Club is a part of that master planning process as we continue to consider our options for the future of the golf course,” Sheehy said in the email. “Following the conclusion of the planning process, the College will determine the appropriate next steps for the Hanover Country Club with the clear understanding that any future plan will include operation through the 2020 golf season.”

The last master plan from 2002 predicted that within a decade or two, the core campus would be built out which would leave the golf course — “our land bank” — as space for additional expansion. Because the area is more than a 10-minute walk to campus, the 2002 master plan envisioned buildings for graduate student housing or academic institutes just north of what is now Dartmouth’s Life Sciences Center and the Dewey parking lot while maintaining a 9-hole golf course on the other side of Lyme Road.

Keniston said past master plan recommendations will be reevaluated and Whitcomb said the planning process will develop principles and guidelines for campus.

“What makes Dartmouth great is that it’s a very walkable campus,” Whitcomb said.

One possibility for the future of the Hanover Country Club is the addition of a new clubhouse on Lyme Road. Keniston confirmed that a group of Tuck students are currently evaluating the financial viability of such a venue.

Richard Nordgren, an emeritus Geisel School of Medicine professor who lives on Rope Ferry Road near the golf course, said he would be opposed to buildings on the golf course and the influx of traffic.

“I hope they don’t ruin the golf course. I think the neighborhood would be very much against that,” he said.

Graduate student housing has also become a focus for Hanover residents. Keniston said that the college only houses a third of the graduate population and according to one estimate, Hanover is short of housing by 500 units.

“We’ve heard over time that housing is important for grad students and in the Upper Valley, housing is challenging,” Keniston said.

According to Keniston, $500,000 has been approved for a private developer to build 250 beds either at 401 Mount Support Road or Sachem Village, which already houses graduate students.

Keniston said there are no current plans for the Rivercrest site but the land would “likely fit well with housing need.”

The neighboring Kendal at Hanover retirement community has an existing purchase agreement with Dartmouth for roughly 12.5 acres of the Rivercrest property, but that agreement expires in June unless both parties agree to an extension.

Gert Assmus, a former Dartmouth professor who lives on Conant Road east of campus, said that there are houses that he walks past that used to be owned by Hanover residents that are now inhabited by graduate students.

“Some of them are responsible and some are not,” he said citing concerns with noise and trash.

While the college has been sensitive about their presence downtown in the past, Assmus said he feels the college has no longer taken the concerns of residents into consideration.

In particular, Assmus cited the college’s plans for an indoor practice facility which was initially denied by the Hanover Planning Board but ultimately approved after the ruling was appealed to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

Bill Young, who also lives on Rope Ferry Road near the golf course, said that he welcomes a master plan, which could clear up uncertainty over plans for college-owned land that abut residential neighborhoods.

Young said in his experience as a trustee of the Pine Park Association and the chair of the Hanover Bike and Pedestrian committee, the college and the town have an “impressive cooperation.”

Dartmouth recently started construction on a 160,000-square-foot Thayer School of Engineering building and parking garage, a major expansion in the west end of campus.

The college is also building a new dorm on the intersection of Crosby and East Wheelock Street.

Other candidate locations at the time included an area of land in College Park and the former site of Gilman Hall, on the west side of College Street.

Whitcomb said there will be opportunities for residents to exchange information with college planners at two public forums — one in early May and another later in the summer.

“The town is only a little older than Dartmouth … We are a university community,” she said.

As for the future location of a proposed Dartmouth biomass plant, Keniston said the technical analysis is almost complete to announce two to four potential sites. A community forum will be held mid-May to solicit feedback on the locations from local residents.

Keniston added that the process of choosing a private partner has just begun and 16 potential firms have expressed interest.

Amanda Zhou can be reached at azhou@vnews.com