Hearings open on Quinnipiac application for dorm rooms in six buildings at York Hill Campus

HAMDEN – A hearing on Quinnipiac University’s request to add 220 new beds to its York HIll Campus opened at this week’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, but it won’t be acted upon until at least next month.

The university this week appeared before the Planning and Zoning Commission to outline its plans to build six connected buildings on the York HIll Campus that would add 220 bedrooms to the campus.

Quinnipiac University dorms on its York Hill campus.

“The design is certainly acceptable and in keeping with the overall layout of the York Hill Campus,” Town Planner Dan Kops said in his report on the application.  The department is happy the university is adding beds, he said, but wishes it was more.

In 2007 the commission approved the application for the York Hill Campus, including dorms with 2,048 beds. Of that number, the university build dorms accommodating 1,448 beds, 600 less than approved.

The reason they didn’t build the full number is because there’s wasn’t the demand for that many beds, university officials have said. But for more than a decade many students, especially upperclassmen, have opted to rent homes from private homeowners rather than live on campus and have to adhere to the university’s dorm regulations.

Tensions have flared between residents living in neighborhoods where homes are rented to students. They complain about loud parties and vandalism to their property, which has led to pressure on the university from town officials to build more dorms to get the students out of the residential neighborhoods..

In addition to neighborhood issues, the university’s enrollment has continued to climb as its reputation has grown, not only locally but regionally and nationwide. The university has become much more well-known as it has expanded its academic programs, including its new medical school, and its athletic teams have met with success, especially its men’s and women’s hockey teams. It also has become a household name for political junkies who follow the well-regarded Quinnipiac Polling Institute, which is routinely cited by major media outlets.

But that enrollment increase, town officials contend, is a violation of the 2007 zoning permit and led to the department issuing the university a notice of violation. The school has appealed that violation in Superior Court.

“Thus while the 220 beds will be necessary, they will not be sufficient to establish an equilibrium between university-provided beds, given that there are approximately 2,077 students now living off-campus,” Kops wrote. “While the new residence halls are a positive step, providing additional residence halls will not have a favorable impact on Hamden’s residential neighborhoods if enrollment increases in the manner it has over the past decade.”

The department wants the university to cap the number of undergraduate students at 7,000, Kops said, which is approximately the number of undergraduates this year. But it also wants to see the university complete the 600 beds needed to bring the total built up to those included in the 2007 approval.

Right now, there’s only the plans for the 220 beds, according to QU spokesman John Morgan.

“The residence hall currently before the Planning and Zoning Commission is the only one the university is proposing at this time,” he said Thursday.

There also is the issue of the fines the university owes the town and is contesting in court. As long as there is no legal decision that wipes out the fines, they remain in effect and as long as they’re owed, the zoning department can’t approve the application, Kops said.

“The fines are currently under mediation and we will not be commenting on them,” Morgan said.

The Planning and Zoning Commission will take up the application again at its Jan. 9 meeting.

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