The Planning and Zoning Commission meeting last night saw heated discussion among representatives of Quinnipiac University, members of the commission, and Hamden citizens, but no resolve or changes to zoning regulations.
The two issues discussed were heavy traffic between the York Hill and Mount Carmel campuses, including the issue of parking permits, and the conduct of students living off-campus in residential neighborhoods.
After debates and laments, the commission voted to do what little they could to address the clear frustration of Hamden citizens and students in their neighborhoods: a pamphlet will be distributed to inform and educate off-campus students and their landlords of the responsibility of being a member of the Hamden community. These off-campus students will then be required to sign a document confirming that they read and understand the policy that the town and their neighbors are trying to implement.
This “Good Neighbor Policy,” will include information on trash pickup times, noise ordinance parameters, parking limitations and responsibility reminders.
The Hamden residents in attendance were still unsatisfied with the outcome, but they had the opportunity to voice their concerns. Most wanted more accountability for students in residential areas, or in some cases more power to inflict discipline on those students not respecting their neighbors.
“The problem is they shouldn’t be in the neighborhoods. Period,” said one citizen from the audience.
UPDATE (5:46 p.m.): The university acted quickly in response to the frustrated Hamden residents by emailing students, living off campus or not, and warning that they will take disciplinary actions against misbehaving students in off-campus houses.
“In an attempt to alleviate further tension I wanted to make you aware of the transgressions and communicate to you that Quinnipiac does not tolerate unacceptable student behavior in residential neighborhoods escalating to the levels it did in the fall,” Senior Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Mark Thompson said in the email.
Whether students are living in the homes or attending a party, students will be “held equally culpable, if the event turns into a public disturbance.”
Town Planner Leslie Creane made the same point the commission had made at prior meetings. “Zoning regulations cannot control behavior,” she said, “I understand the frustration that comes with that.” But the commission was limited in what they could do on Tuesday night to satisfy residents’ complaints.
Bernard Pellegrino, Quinnipiac’s attorney, spoke on behalf of the university all night. He defended each inquiry that the commission had put forth, but his arguments were critiqued by members of the commission and the audience.
The university has had more difficulty in the past controlling students living off-campus than regulating increased traffic between York Hill and Mount Carmel. Consequently, the commission held Pellegrino, and Quinnipiac, more accountable for action on the issue of parking.
Despite the fact that Quinnipiac had conducted a traffic study over the course of two days in November, the commission still had concerns about the number of student cars on the road coming from York Hill.
“I find it highly unlikely that only 15 percent of the vehicles exiting York Hill were going to Mount Carmel,” said Joe McDonough, director of the commission. The general assumption of the commission was that those cars were headed for the North Haven campus, clinicals or internships, though Pellegrino pointed out that cars on the York Hill campus could also belong to administrators, staff or vendors.
According to Pellegrino, of the 1,165 students living on York Hill, 191 juniors and 56 seniors have classes on both the North Haven and Mount Carmel campuses, while 133 juniors and 24 seniors have classes in North Haven only. Because there is no North Haven shuttle, 404 students must get to that campus by vehicle.
Assistant Town Planner Dan Kops had received a phone call from an anonymous Quinnipiac junior with that exact complaint: her presence was required on two campuses each day, and her schedule was based on the presumption that she would be able to use her car. Having to take her car to North Haven, drive back to York Hill, then take a shuttle to Mount Carmel made it impossible to stick to her schedule.
Pellegrino said that Quinnipiac had talked to that student and her parents and the issue had been resolved, and that there was some kind of internship involved. His response implied that the issue was an isolated case, contradicting his earlier numbers.
The commission wants less congestion in the Whitney Avenue traffic, but they were unable to come to a solution. Additionally, they are concerned about the continuing growth of the student population.
“What’s the manifest destiny of Quinnipiac University?” one commissioner asked, “I don’t know and I’m not sure the university knows, except to just grow and grow and grow.”
The commission requested a five-year plan for expansion, along with the university’s plan to fill the vacant dormitory spaces and statistics on the number of disciplined students living off campus. Since Quinnipiac is a private institution, the commission is unable to access these plans and figures.