Quinnipiac receives tremendous support on light poles — mostly from its own people

Tennis courts relocation won’t happen until at least September

Chatwan Mongkol, News Editor

Quinnipiac University requested the Hamden Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to reschedule its public hearing to Sept. 16, for a variance to install eight 50-foot light poles in the new tennis courts where zoning regulation permits 30-foot tall structures.

The reason for rescheduling was because Quinnipiac preferred to present its plan to the all five board members, but only four were in attendance that night. The public hearing for the university’s application has already been rescheduled once from June 17 to July 15.

The Hamden Zoning Board of Appeals postponed the public hearing for Quinnipiac University’s variance to install eight 50-foot light poles to September. (Chatwan Mongkol)

Prior to the ZBA meeting on July 15, the board received letters from at least 86 people urging its members to approve the variance. Among the 86 people, 82 of them were Quinnipiac affiliates from top administrators to faculty members, staff, student leaders, tennis players, alumni and parents. This came after over 30 Hamden and North Haven residents signed a petition opposing the university’s application.

Student Government Association (SGA) President Nick Ciampanelli was among 17 students who submitted the supporting letters to the board. He told The Chronicle that Vice President for Strategy and Community Relations and Chief of Staff Bethany Zemba connected with him to garner student support.

“SGA chose to support the variance request because these lights are incredibly impactful upon the student experience, particularly for students in club sports and facilitating late-night programming,” Ciampanelli said.

He also said these light poles will become increasingly important as fall and winter approach because of limited daylight.

The letters state that this project is a step toward creating more reasons and incentives for students to want to live and remain on campus, as the university is implementing a three-year residential mandate.

Besides the letters in favor for the variance, the board also received letters against the plan from several local residents. Hamden resident Franz Douskey, who has spent decades using Quinnipiac’s tennis courts, wrote in a letter to the ZBA that 50- or 60-foot light poles are not required as the university claimed.

“This appeal from Quinnipiac University to require taller light poles is an unnecessary self-made hardship,” Douskey wrote. “They cited the NCAA requirements, but the Quinnipiac proposal states that the request for a variance is not for NCAA level games or for team play, but for student recreational use.”

Another reason the neighbors cited was environmental concerns. However, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filardi told The Chronicle that these light poles will only shine on Quinnipiac’s property, and there will not be any impact on the environment.

“The fixtures are all night sky certified,” Filardi said. “They’re all sustainable. They don’t cause any ill effects to wildlife or neighbors, all the light will shine on our property.”

Ciampanelli said he is not an expert on environmental issues, but he understood that these lights would result in little to no change in light pollution. Given the location’s topography, he said the height of the light poles will prevent light spillage beyond the court’s surface. 

These light poles are a part of Quinnipaic’s plan to relocate its six tennis courts from the existing location to the North Lot because of the ongoing construction for the new recreation and wellness center. The project will cost students 145 parking spots.

Even though the SGA president supported the variance for 50-foot light poles installation, he said he does not support the whole relocation plan because it “drastically” reduces student parking.

“This is heightened by the fact (that) we are returning on-ground for the upcoming year, thereby raising new parking issues that were previously offset by the pandemic,” Ciampanelli said. “Nonetheless, while the relocation is underway and we are unable to change that, SGA actively stands to support and improve student experience.”

The Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission has not yet approved Quinnipiac’s plan to relocate its tennis courts since the variance for light poles has to be approved by the ZBA first.

The university initially planned that the relocation project will be complete by the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. The public hearing for the plan was scheduled for July 27, but it will likely be moved to September due to the postponement of the variance for light poles. As a result, the relocation will not happen until at least the end of September.

However, the existing tennis courts have been closed due to the ongoing construction of the new recreation and wellness center.

In a statement to The Chronicle, Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan wrote that the university will rent tennis facilities at North Haven High School for men’s and women’s tennis teams as well as tennis club sports players. He said the university cannot begin the construction without approval from the town.