The upcoming Hamden mayoral election is pushing the university’s relationship with the town to center stage.
Democrat Mayor Scott Jackson and his challenger Republican Bob Anthony discussed the university at a debate last Thursday.
Both Jackson and Anthony feel Quinnipiac is an asset to the town. However, they would prefer if the university pushed for on-campus housing to alleviate some of the friction between students who live off campus and Hamden residents.
In a phone interview on Monday, Jackson said he likes how the university has marketed on-campus housing on York Hill.
“[Quinnipiac University] undercut the price, they have done this thing that is incredibly unusual which is allowing of-age students to possess alcohol on campus,” Jackson said. “They’ve actually done the right thing to bring students back.”
Jackson believes educating students and building housing on York Hill should be the university’s focus, rather than buying commercial properties.
“You can look at Broadway at Yale, you can look at [the] college town in Ithaca and you can start to say, ‘OK this is what it might look like,’” Jackson said. “But the university’s job is to manage the university. Can it spark increased development in that corridor? Yeah it can, but I don’t think it should be focused on actually expending the funding and doing the development.”
At the State of the QUion in January, President John Lahey said he wanted to acquire Ives Street up to Mount Carmel Avenue.
In a phone interview on Monday, Anthony said he is concerned this expansion would raise taxes for Hamden citizens because properties used for higher education are taxed at a lower rate, according to Connecticut state law.
“As Quinnipiac buys up properties, it takes those properties off the tax rolls and it puts more of a burden on the taxpayer themselves and we need to control that,” Anthony said. “We need to control our tax rates and our bill rates. We need to get our finances back in line. Not all of it is Quinnipiac, but Quinnipiac does have an impact.”
However, commercial property owned by the university can be taxed at the regular rate, Jackson said.
“The broad statement that Quinnipiac properties are not taxable is actually not true,” he said. “They have to be properties that are directly affiliated with the university’s academic mission that makes them not taxable.”
Jackson acknowledged that if the university could be taxed at the regular rate, Hamden citizens would have lower taxes, but there is little he can do about this.
“This is an existing condition,” he said. “It’s been this way for 100 years. It’s baked into the pie already.”
If elected, Anthony plans to discuss the university’s expansion with the administration.
“Quinnipiac needs to sit down with the town and have a better plan as to what they want to do in order to help offset the cost for the taxpayer,” Anthony said. “Obviously they’re expanding in leaps and bounds and we just need to know what they’re looking to do, what areas they’re looking to go into and what they’re looking to do in those areas.”
Jackson said he has a good relationship with the university.
“I think we understand that our futures are intertwined,” he said. “I see what President Lahey has done over a quarter of a century and it’s unbelievable. I was talking with a guy from Yale who said, ‘You know we used to laugh at Quinnipiac, but they’ve done in 10 years what has taken us 300 to do,’ and that’s a fair statement.”