South Quad project receives preliminary approval from Hamden PZC

Cat Murphy, Staff Writer

The Hamden Planning and Zoning Commission voted on Nov. 15, to approve Quinnipiac University’s application to rezone the Mount Carmel campus as a planning and development district as university officials prepare the South Quad project proposals for final approval.

PDD zones are designed to “encourage and accommodate unique and desirable development that is not able to be accommodated by conventional zoning,” according to a zoning update issued by the Hamden PZC on Oct. 13. 

The campus was previously zoned as a residential-two district, which is intended to “encourage development of low-density residential uses,” according to Hamden zoning regulations. The limitations of Hamden’s R-2 zoning regulations frequently required Quinnipiac officials to receive variances from the Hamden Zoning Board of Appeals, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Planning Sal Filadi told the Chronicle on Oct. 21.

A rendering of the South Quad shows the proposed blueprint for the three new buildings Quinnipiac University plans to build by 2024. (Photo contributed by Quinnipiac University)

We are pleased the Planning and Zoning Commission has approved the PDD, which is an important step as we seek final approval for Quinnipiac’s new South Quad,” wrote John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, in a statement to the Chronicle on Nov. 16. 

Four of the eight commissioners present at the Hamden PZC’s Nov. 15, meeting, including Town Planner Eugene Livshits, voted in favor of the university’s application to adopt a planning and development district. 

Commissioner Joe McDonaugh, who had previously revealed his involvement in “some public issues with the university,” recused himself from voting to avoid a conflict of interest. The remaining three commissioners, including Chairman Brack Poitier, abstained from voting on the application.

The Hamden PZC held a meeting to hear the university’s PDD application on Sept. 13, but continued the public hearing three times amid several hours-long presentations and more than two dozen public comments from local residents and members of the Quinnipiac community. 

The commission approved Quinnipiac’s initial concept development plan for the multimillion-dollar South Quad on Nov. 15, as part of its initial PDD approval. 

“The benefits of this project aren’t confined by the boundaries of our campus,” Morgan wrote. “The South Quad project will support a long-term goal to decrease the number of students living off campus, while also creating economic growth for the town of Hamden through permitting fees, job creation and contracts with builders and construction suppliers in the region.”

The dual-step PDD approval process requires the university to submit its final site development plan to the commission before it can apply for building permits and begin construction on the South Quad project.

Although Hamden’s PDD zoning regulations do not require the PZC to hold a public hearing on an applicant’s final site development plan, the commission may hold a public hearing if it determines that the plan “differs significantly from the Initial Development Concept Plan,” according to section 390.11 of Hamden’s zoning regulations.

Some local residents at the Nov. 15, meeting criticized the lack of a mandatory public hearing on the university’s site plans. 

Gary DeSimone, a North Haven resident who lives less than a mile from Quinnipiac’s Hogan Road entrance, submitted a letter to the commission on Nov. 2, to voice his concerns.

“This is another backdoor way for them to bypass existing zoning regulations and avoid the public hearing,” DeSimone wrote in the letter. “As long as any future site plans comply with the zoning regulations in the initial PDD application, no modifications to the PDD application would be required and a public hearing would not be required.”

Bernard Pellegrino, an attorney at Pellegrino Law Firm in New Haven, Connecticut, who represents Quinnipiac, proposed on Nov. 15, to allow a future public hearing on the university’s final site development plan to address these concerns.

Filardi told the Chronicle on Nov. 18, that Quinnipiac officials would likely look to receive site plan approval at the Hamden PZC’s Dec. 13, meeting, which will include a public hearing.