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Master Plan Forum Clarifies No Development on Agricultural Land

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While Tuesday’s campus master plan forum drew a smaller crowd than those held previously, the comments and questions were as succinct as those expressed at earlier meetings.

Two open meetings held April 17, created concerns among students, faculty, staff and Durham residents when proposed big box store development was presented as a possibility for the university’s agricultural land. The public-private partnership would—as would any mentioned at yesterday’s forum—involve a land lease from the university not a sale.

As a result of feedback from the April 17 public forums, the draft of the master plan is being modified to omit any development in the area north of Main Street bounded by Mast, Spinney and O’Kane roads and Route 4. The modifications also will include language that limits any unanticipated changes in this area to those that sustain and when possible enhance the educational, agricultural and aesthetic value of the land.

Noting that alternative revenue streams need to be explored, President Mark Huddleston has come out against the idea of big box stores on campus, saying they do not belong on UNH agricultural land.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Sarah Hamilton, director of the equine program, said agriculture programs at UNH are not being considered in the update of the campus master plan, adding “all the agriculture programs are concerned.” She also noted the master plan indicates the equine center would be relocated.

“There is a lot of attention being giving to the arts, to housing, to recreation…agriculture is important and it’s simply not being considered,” Hamilton said. “We have significant concerns about safety, about our program, and we are wondering when they will be addressed.” 

UNH architect Doug Bencks said they have worked with the deans of each college while drafting an update to the master plan, and that he would be sure that the College of Life Sciences and Agriculture has the opportunity to state its opinion.

Elisabeth Boulton, associate professor in the department of biological sciences and equine surgery specialist, echoed the opinion that the proposed master plan shows UNH is “losing sight of agriculture on campus,” and said a member of COLSA should be on the steering committee.

Junior Evan Girard asked Bencks at what point in the master plan process the cost of programs that would be gained, and those that would be compromised, would be revealed. He also asked if there is a vision of the athletic department mission aligning with the mission of the university. Noting that hockey is the only sport making money, he said there was no reason to expand the recreation facilities, as the updated plan calls for.

“The football program isn’t selling out now,” said Girard, an environmental and resources economic major. “There is no need to expand the stadium.”

More information can be found at http://www.unh.edu/cmp/.