The Planning and Zoning Commission Tuesday postponed taking action on the proposed amendment that would require Quinnipiac University to submit for commission approval a five-year master plan after the school indicated that passage of the amendment would jeopardize the voluntary $1.2 million payment it had agreed to give the town.
“Undoubtedly, the commissioners are aware of the yet-to-be-signed Memorandum of Understanding between the town and the Quinnipiac University,” Asst. Town Planner Dan Kops said in a memo to the commission. “The MOU calls for the university to contribute approximately $1.2 million to the town on an annual basis.
“However, the university has made it clear verbally that the agreement will not be signed off if the IMP [Institutional Master Plan] is subject to commission approval,” he said.
Before any discussion could take place, the commission Tuesday tabled the item until its Jan. 15 meeting.
Mayor Scott Jackson has “expressed strong reservations” about requiring commission approval for the master plan, Kops said.
“[Jackson] feels it is unfair to single out one large entity and not others,” he said. “But he also said that the Planning and Zoning Commission should not consider the possible loss of the university’s offer of $1.2 million, which is a financial rather than a zoning issue.”
The commission has long pushed for the university to file a master plan in order to keep the town abreast of its plans for expansion and to deal with issues such as traffic in and around its campus. In the past such a plan would be “accepted” rather than “approved.” By requiring commission approval, the plan would have to be formally presented and the public allowed input.
“The IMP is to include information on the institution’s vision for the future, physical expansion plans, current and projected enrollment, student housing, housing policy, impact on the housing market, traffic impact and impact on the ridgelines,” Kops said.
“The IMP review process would make the areas of concern very clear to both the university and the public,” he said. “The Planning and Zoning Department believes that the requirement of an IMP will be a useful tool for both institutions of higher learning and the commission, guiding appropriate university growth in the future.”
Last month, the Legislative Council unexpectedly approved the Memorandum of Agreement at a special meeting. The MOA calls on the university to make a “voluntary” annual payment to the town in return for consideration of the formation of a University Zone.
The action took some by surprise because it was not widely disseminated beforehand. The payment, which is just over $1.2 million for this year, fills a $750,000 line item in the current year’s town budget that was included in anticipation of the agreement.