Town denies approval to change use of university president’s property

Brooke Reilly

The Town of Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on Tuesday, Oct. 15 in regards to the Quinnipiac University’s president’s property located at 305 Spruce Bank Rd. Hamden, CT. 

The university was seeking approval to change the property from residential use to university use. The Planning and Zoning Department requested that the university submit an application for approval.

At the meeting, the commission denied approval of the application with two members voting in favor, three against and one abstention. The chair of the department did not vote.

“I was a little surprised by the outcome,” Daniel Kops Jr, the town planner, said. “I had anticipated that the application would be approved, but there is a long history of distrust in the neighborhood when regards to the plans of the university.”

The pavilion on the university president’s property

Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi attended the hearing, alongside attorneys Brian Stone and Bernard Pellegrino, from the Pellegrino Law Firm, in representation of the university. Stone gave an overview of the property and explained the university’s intended use of each building, including the pavilion, the main house and the barn. 

The biggest controversy lies with the pavilion. The space can hold up to 150 people, and the university plans to use it as an area to host events, such as dinners, meetings and lectures.

“I think students are always looking for space for meetings and things like this, and I think this is a space that’s potentially available for larger groups,” Filardi said. 

Kops recommended the application for approval, saying in his report that “the application meets the Special Permit Threshold Decision Criteria specified in Section 718.4.” He included that prior to issuing the permit, the university must get a Zoning Permit signed by the Town Engineer, Quinnipiack Valley Health District, Fire Marshall and Zoning Officer, 305 Spruce Bank Rd. and 275 Mount Carmel Ave. must have Mylar merger filed on the Land Record and plumbing in the pavilion needs to be disconnected until it is approved by Quinnipiack Valley Health District. 

The conditions required for the application to be approved include that nothing can be put into septic system without approval, the university must inform the Zoning Enforcement Officer at least 10 days before events, events can only take place between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m., no music or amplified sound is allowed to play outside, portable toilets need to be gone within 24 hours of an event and the RWA is allowed to inspect the property annually.

305 Spruce Bank Rd. Site Plan, Courtesy: Hamden Zoning and Planning Department

However, many Hamden residents feel that this will cause a disturbance to the residential neighborhoods that they live in and gives the university access to do more with the property.

“By changing the zoning designation from single family to university, I believe that then gives the university much more flexibility in what they can do with that property with the master plan,” Hamden resident Peter Lindenfelser said.

Hamden residents brought up issues regarding traffic with Quinnipiac students being bad drivers and causing accidents on the corner of New Road and Ives Street, too many lights coming from the property and a lack of transparency between the university and the public.

“When school is in session, there’s a large number of Quinnipiac students that drive through that area that you know, they’re speeding,” Hamden resident Kevin Kerrigan said.

Filardi believes that these residents do not have a clear understanding of why the permit needs to be obtained and what the property will be used for.

“There was a lot of that discussion, where once they get this, they can do whatever they want,” Filardi said. “That’s just not the case. That really couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

Some residents are concerned about parking. There isn’t enough space in the driveway to fit a large amount of cars for big events. The university plans to have guests park on the Mount Carmel campus and use shuttles to transport them back and forth. 

However, the university expressed interest in connecting the university president’s property to the Mount Carmel campus with a road and/or sidewalk. This will be a part of the Facilities Master Plan that is expected to be released in May.

“I think it’s our big picture plan to connect the properties, so we can have more convenient use of the property as a part of campus,” Filardi said. “The road has to go through Planning and Zoning’s special permit process.”

Although the application was not approved, the university and the Planning and Zoning Commission will continue working together to resolve any misunderstandings.

“We are working with the university on trying to improve relations for things that could be done for the mutual benefit of both institutions,” Kops said.

Vice President and Chief of Staff Bethany Zemba will be attending next week’s to discuss any issues.