In a surprise move last week, Quinnipiac University officials notified the town of Hamden that it will be retracting its prohibition against juniors living at Rocky Hill campus from driving their own cars to the Mount Carmel campus.
That basically leaves the town at square one in dealing with the traffic the students create in that area, traffic that was supposed to have been eliminated through the conditions the Planning and Zoning Commission placed on its approval of the Rocky Top campus.
Then, university officials promised that the students living there would use the many Quinnipiac Shuttles that run between the two campuses as a condition of approval. But school officials soon found that that prohibition made students want to bypass living in the new dorms at the top of the hill in favor of renting private residences that lacked such a requirement and allowed them to drive to class rather than take a shuttle.
At the beginning of this school year, the school granted the privilege of driving between campuses only to seniors, but last week the university announced it would be expanding that privilege to juniors next year.
On the same day university officials notified the town that it would be asking for an amendment to allow the extra traffic, it also sent out a letter to students announcing the change.
Quinnipiac officials did not respond to a request for comment.
Stories began popping up in student media announcing the change, which for them was a good thing. But for the neighbors, their fear is that the 191 additional cars the juniors drive will only add to congestion in an already busy intersection.
The Planning and Zoning Commission won't be taking up the issue until its meeting next week. But the university already has taken steps to include the change in its promotional material it will use to lure students to live on campus at Rocky Top next year.
The university has acknowledged that it has been tough to convince upper classmen that they should live in the Rocky Top dorms. And students themselves have taken to their own publications to vent -- case in question, this letter in the Quinnipiac Chronicle that outlines student's objections to living conditions at York Hill.
Administrators feel that they need to give juniors the option of driving between the two campuses in order to attract students to live in the newly-built dorms.
"We are dealing with them on that," Town Planner Leslie Creana said Monday night. "It vindicates what the conditions of approval and what the benefits would be.'
In order for the juniors to be able to drive between campuses, the university must apply to the Planning and Zoning Commission for a special permit. But they have already put the information in their material to entice students to live on York Hill. Without that ability, it will be difficult to attract students to the new dorms next year, she said.
Scott Harris, who represents the 9th District on the Legislative Council, said he thinks there is a solution that Quinnipiac has not yet considered.
"I went to a university with a huge campus and there was no point in having a car -- it was easier to just take the bus." he said. "It confuses me a little why Quinnipiac hasn't been able to perfect that formula since there seems to be plenty of examples that they could draw from.
"They need to honor the spirit of the commitment made to the town not to bring traffic to a crawl when they built their new campus here," Harris said.
It comes down to the trust between the university and the town, he said, and something like this can wear at that trust and faith.