QU withdraws application for tennis courts in North Haven, uncertainty of relocation remains

Cat Murphy, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University withdrew its applications to build tennis courts on the North Haven campus on Nov. 1, following more than four months of back-and-forth with concerned local residents and officials.

“We withdrew the application to examine options for the proposal based on our own considerations and feedback we received from the Planning and Zoning Commission,” said John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, in an email to the Chronicle on Nov. 7.

University officials began looking to relocate Quinnipiac’s tennis courts over a year ago amid construction on the recently renovated Recreation and Wellness Center on the Mount Carmel campus that knocked down the former tennis courts.

Quinnipiac officials initially sought to build new tennis courts on the university’s main campus. The university, which also proposed building eight 50-foot light poles as part of the tennis court construction, would have had to receive a variance from the Hamden Zoning Board of Appeals to build light poles exceeding 35 feet in height, according to Hamden zoning regulations.

The Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission discussed in March 2022 the possibility of adopting a zoning regulation amendment that would permit light poles taller than 35 feet at outdoor sporting facilities, according to the March 8, meeting minutes.

Commissioner Joe McDonagh said during the meeting that “technology has advanced far beyond what the regulations were based on,” and the commissioners agreed that the amendment was worth exploring.

The sports facility lighting amendment was brought before the commission in July. Although the Hamden Police Department submitted a letter of support, only Bernard Pellegrino, an attorney at The Pellegrino Law Firm who represents Quinnipiac, spoke in favor of the amendment, according to the meeting minutes.

Six Hamden residents spoke in opposition to the amendment, and the application was tabled to a September meeting, according to the minutes from the July 26, and Sept. 13, meetings.

University officials submitted applications with the North Haven PZC in May 2022 to build a half-dozen tennis courts on Quinnipiac’s North Haven campus.

The applications proposed replacing a 143-space parking lot at the northwest end of the campus with six tennis courts. The proposal also included constructing eight 50-foot light poles around the perimeter of the courts.

Although the commission initially planned to hear Quinnipiac’s tennis court applications at the commission’s bimonthly meeting on July 11, the hearing was postponed to the Aug. 1, meeting according to the meeting minutes.

However, the applications faced pushback from North Haven residents.

“I just don’t think this is a great idea for this location,” said Ann Clark, who lives less than two-thirds of a mile from the campus, at a North Haven PZC meeting in August. “And apparently, it was a second choice to come to North Haven when they couldn’t find some kind of arrangement with Hamden.”

Local residents have raised concerns about potential increases in light pollution, noise and traffic resulting from the proposed tennis courts.

“This proposal will forever change the way the site is currently utilized from just academics to include outdoor sports,” North Haven resident Tom White said. “The outdoor sports facilities will negatively impact neighbors’ quality of life and their right to quiet and peaceful enjoyment of their home.”

The North Haven PZC continued the application to the Sept. 12, meeting “to allow the applicant to respond to the public comment,” according to the meeting minutes.

University officials addressed residents’ parking and light pollution concerns at the public hearing in September.

“I think the scope of the use has been overstated,” Pellegrino said. “This is, for the most part, going to be a small number of students or faculty playing tennis.”

However, the commission moved to continue the applications to Oct. 3, to allow the university time to provide the commission with a list of local lighting projects designed by the sports lighting corporation Quinnipiac officials plan to contract, according to the meeting minutes.

The commission postponed the university’s applications for the fourth time in four months on Oct. 3, according to the meeting minutes. Sal Filardi, vice president for facilities and capital planning, told the Chronicle on Oct. 21, that Quinnipiac officials were “still investigating” the commission’s request for information and had requested that the hearing be continued to Nov. 1.

However, Filardi raised the potential for further postponement, and said he was not confident university officials would be prepared to discuss the applications in early November.

“To be quite honest with you, we may postpone it again,” Filardi said on Oct. 21. “I’m not sure we’re going to be ready to talk about it the first week of November either.”

Vern Carlson, chairman of the North Haven PZC, said at the Nov. 1, meeting that the applications regarding Quinnipiac’s North Haven campus had been withdrawn by the applicant and would not be heard by the commission without reapplication.

North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda expressed his support for Quinnipiac’s intention to build tennis courts on the North Haven campus in an email to the Chronicle on Nov. 2.

Freda, who said he has been involved in conversations with university officials, said he understood Quinnipiac’s decision to withdraw its applications as “a pause on the initiative.”