The projected Dover High School has gained approval to build as high as 85 feet.

Dover’s Board of Adjustments unanimously agreed the new Dover High School would not have to comply with a zoning ordinance that would have the school stand only 35 feet tall. With the new allowance, the school may have three stories, as tentatively planned, and feature architectural elements up to 85 feet high.

The school’s site on Route 8 is zoned for single-family residences and is part of the Corridor Overlay Zone, which put height restrictions on the building.

Board of Adjustments member James Keller was hesitant at first to grant the variance because he said the school district should have known about the restrictions before purchasing the property.

Gregg Moore of Becker Morgan Group, which is handling the civil engineering, said a lack of sites large enough to accommodate the future Dover High made choosing a site with no zoning changes unlikely.

“We would have this issue on any property we picked,” he said.

Director of Planning and Inspections Ann Marie Townshend agreed with Moore, and said it would have been “nearly impossible” to find a large property without issues within the city.

The variance applies to the entire site, although the district petitioned for it primarily for a three-story segment of the school that would serve as an education wing of classrooms and library, and look over Route 8. The idea was to build the school higher rather than sprawled out like the current Dover High School, Moore said.

Victoria Stoops, a Route 8 resident, agreed with Moore when she spoke in favor of the variance.

“I think you can use land better building up than building out,” she said.

Stoops’ children went to the current Dover High, and she said a more prominent building would be a boon for the community.

Engineers and architects also are considering architectural elements such as a steeple, clock tower or cupola, all of which would have been nearly impossible under the old height restrictions. Now, the building is able to rise to 60 feet and the architectural elements can be up to 85 feet.

Townshend assured the board this variance would not be precedent setting because high schools are not often built in the city.

The board also approved a variance that allows the district to count trees that are part of a buffer around the property as part of the overall tree density requirements.

With the sports fields, parking lots and buildings on the property, fitting 1,500 trees would be a challenge, Moore said.

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