Kendal Won’t Expand on Old Motel Site

Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Hanover — Kendal at Hanover is pursuing a land deal in which the retirement community would license the former Chieftain Motor Inn property for public waterfront access and Dartmouth College would sell Kendal other property on which to expand.

Kendal bought the once popular motel at 84 Lyme Road in 2013 and demolished the buildings to make way for a roughly 30-apartment expansion. Since then, Kendal officials have reconsidered, and now may buy some of Dartmouth’s “Rivercrest” property to the immediate south of its site.

“We’re very excited to enter into this license with the town and partner with the community and other organizations,” such as the Dartmouth rowing team, said Jeff Roosevelt, a spokesman for Kendal.

Under the terms of the license, which the Selectboard is expected to take up on Monday, the town would be able to use the former Chieftain property for free, although Kendal would not have to pay property taxes on those 10.7 waterfront acres.

When the Chieftain was still a motel, high school and college rowing teams held regattas off the docks, and Dartmouth Greek-letter and other student organizations often booked the venue for events.

Kendal bought the land in September 2013 for $2.5 million, according to town assessing records, and the parcel was worth $1.8 million in 2015.

Kendal abandoned plans to build on the Chieftain land in 2014, Roosevelt said, because of site work costs and insufficient building space.

If the deal between Kendal and the town goes through, members of the public will be able to park in the upland portion of the Chieftain site and use the existing boat launch for water access, according to a draft of the license agreement.

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said the town, Kendal and various community groups had been discussing the license proposal for about six months.

“We have long hoped for more active public access in the 84 Lyme Road parcel, because it is such a lovely riverfront parcel,” she said in an email on Wednesday.

Kendal has been allowing rowing teams to use the property since the 2013 purchase, and Griffin expressed a desire to keep it open “while Kendal mulls their ultimate desired use of the property.”

Meanwhile, talks are underway to buy part of Dartmouth’s abutting property to the south, which stands between the existing Kendal facility and the federal Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory.

Roosevelt said that the size of the expansion, its cost and the amount of land purchased all were dependent on whatever agreement Kendal and Dartmouth reach.

If Kendal were to expand onto the Rivercrest land, which once hosted graduate student housing for Dartmouth, it would move some residents closer to CRREL, a U.S. Army facility that is still cleaning up a contamination from trichloroethylene, a toxic coolant also called TCE.

The substance, which is associated with an increased risk of cancer, was discovered to have spilled into the surrounding environment more than a decade ago.

Kendal officials said, however, that contamination would not be a risk for residents of the expansion, were it to happen on Dartmouth’s nearby land.

“Any agreement with Dartmouth will make sure that it is safe,” Roosevelt said.

Griffin, for her part, agreed, saying that she had “no concern about TCE, whatsoever.”

College administrators did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Dartmouth in the 2000s planned to turn the 1960s-era Rivercrest development into a larger housing facility, but backed away from the idea after the financial crisis and eventually tore down the roughly 60 existing units, according to Valley News stories from the time.

Kendal also is seeking a zoning amendment that would remove regulatory barriers to its expansion.

Hanover’s current zoning ordinance caps the number of dwelling units in a continuing care retirement community at 250, regardless of parcel size.

Kendal is already at that limit, so its proposed zoning amendment would raise the maximum number of units to 310.

The retirement community proposed another zoning amendment in 2015, which would have facilitated an expansion on its existing property.

The measure failed, Roosevelt said, in part because some residents mistakenly believed that the amendment would have allowed construction on the Chieftain Motor Inn site, which presumably would have ended public water access there.

The Planning Board on Tuesday night discussed the zoning amendments slated for 2017 Town Meeting, but was not scheduled to take action, according to its agenda. The Planning Board in 2015 recommended that the town adopt the unsuccessful Kendal zoning amendment.

The Selectboard is scheduled to address the potential Kendal license at 7:30 p.m. Monday during a public forum at Town Hall.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or at 603-727-3242.