University withholds $1.23 million payment to Hamden

Julia Perkins

Quinnipiac does not want to make its annual voluntary payment to Hamden, according to town officials. The university opposes a proposed Planning and Zoning Commission amendment where the commission could approve or deny the university’s five-year master plan.

The town voted in October in favor of a memorandum of understanding between Hamden and Quinnipiac where the university would pay more than $1.23 million to the town, according to the New Haven Register. This is the highest amount Quinnipiac has ever promised to pay the town. For the past few years, the university has made a voluntary payment of $100,000 a year to Hamden. In exchange, Hamden and Quinnipiac would work together to “streamline the process by which university development applications are proposed to the appropriate boards and commissions.”

But in December, University President John Lahey sent a letter to Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson saying the university would not sign this memorandum of understanding because the Planning and Zoning Commission wants the authority to approve Quinnipiac’s five-year master plan, according to the New Haven Register.

But Assistant Town Planner Dan Kops said the commission is not trying to hurt the university with this amendment.

“The design for a master plan should not be seen as an attempt to stop the university from growing,” he said. “It’s simply a matter of understanding what the university would like to do and allowing the commission the opportunity to react to that and raise any concerns.”

This will make it easier for the commission to review the university’s applications, Kops said.

“Over the last several years the university has grown quite a bit,” he said. “And it’s not clear to the town’s residents, it’s not clear to staff how that growth is going to continue and it makes it difficult for us to evaluate applications that come in piecemeal.”

Town officials in particular are concerned with how quickly the student population is growing since the university does not have room to house all its students on campus, Kops said.

“There are many many students living in residential areas,” he said. “And the lifestyles of students are different from the lifestyles of the general population and in numerous incidences that’s led to problems.”

This amendment is the first step in addressing this problem, Kops said.

Freshman Ashley Harrington said the university should pay the town the $1.23 million.

“I think they should make the payment because it’s important for the town and the school to get along,” she said.

Harrington acknowledged that there could be a problem with the Planning and Zoning Commission having the authority to approve the town’s master plan.

“But I think that if Quinnipiac’s willing to pay them that much it would be ridiculous for the town not to do anything, not to help us out,” she said.

Mayor Scott Jackson has told the Planning and Zoning Commission not to consider the university’s warning to withhold the more than $1.23 million payment when it votes on the amendment, Kops said.

“[The memorandum of understanding] is independent of what the planning and zoning commission does,” he said. “The planning and zoning commission does not look at that agreement when determining whether or not to approve the amendment. That’s a financial issue.”

A lawyer is looking at the commission’s amendment to make sure it would stand up to state statutes if the university challenged it in court, Kops said.

Kops anticipates the commission will vote on the amendment on Feb. 10.

The university declined to comment for this story. The Hamden mayor’s office was unavailable for comment in time for publication.