PDD approval process challenged

A New Haven resident and Yale alumnusis trying to stop the University from building its new School of Management campus.

Local dentist Joe Tagliarini ’83filed an appeal Monday to New Haven Superior court Judge Thomas Corradino against the Planned Development District (PDD) that allows for the construction of the SOM’s future home.

Tagliarini, whose house has historic value to New Haven as it was the first house designed in 1936 in the modernist style, according to court documents submitted by Yale to the city on Sept. 13. He disagrees with the city’s decision to grant Yale a PDD, claiming that the building plans, designed by renowned architect Lord Norman Foster ARC ’62, do not fit the design of the surrounding area.

Construction of the new Yale School of Management campus continues despite Joseph Tagliarini's '83 appeal.
Traci Tillman
Construction of the new Yale School of Management campus continues despite Joseph Tagliarini's '83 appeal.

“I am a Yalie,” Tagliarini said “I do not want to seem overly aggressive to Yale. It is really the [building approval] process that we are irked by.”

In March, the City Plan Commission unanimously agreed to grant Yale a PDD, a designation that allows the University to create zoning requirements different from the standard — on Yale owned property between 155 and 175 Whitney Ave.

The PDD allows Yale to construct a new 300-foot-long building for the school. The Board of Aldermen also approved Yale’s PDD on March 1 by a vote of 25-1, agreeing that the building adhered to New Haven’s comprehensive building plans and would blend with the context of the neighborhood.

In Monday’s hearing, Tagliarini’s attorney, Marjorie Shansky ’74, argued the PDD was illegal because it does not fit with the broader city design and the Board of Alderman improperly rushed the approval process.

Yale’s associate vice president of New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand ’87 DIV ’93, who attended the hearing, responded to Shansky’s accusations by stating that, with the PDD in effect, Yale could legally have built a more obtrusive building than the one designed.

At the hearing, Yale’s attorney Joseph Hammer SOM ’97 provided illustrations of more imposing designs Yale could legally build under the PDD.

Morand said the building’s designs were modified from the original plan in order to incorporate public concern voiced during the four public hearings held before the March PDD approval.

According to Ward 20 Alderman Charles Blango, the PDD process was not rushed. “Yale went to community meetings and management team meetings and got signatures from members of the community. They did not just bulldoze,” Blango said. At least 90 percent of the residents and business owners supported the proposal he added. Morand said such real-estate-related legal action like Tagliarini’s is not unprecedented and that he was not surprised that at least one resident spoke out against the building plans.

“There are always going to be people that don’t like things.Absolute perfection is not possible in this life time,” Morand said.

But the one dissenting aldermen, Darnell Goldson, said even though he recognized that the vote was a foregone conclusion, his dissent represented the views of Ward 30. Residents did not publicly express their concerns because of a reluctance to oppose Yale, Goldson said.

“I saw that I was on the right side even if not on the winning side,” he said.

While Goldson said he was not sure if the approval process was unfair, he said he thought Yale may have bullied some residents into approving it. Before the vote, a small number of other residents including Tagliarini said they opposed the PDD proposal. But on the day of the approval, Tagliarini said he supported the plan. Still, Tagliarini has the legal right to reverse his decision and question the PDD approval now, Goldson said.

Three business owners raised no concerns about the building plans. Tom Sobocinski, co-manager of Caseus Fromagerie Bistro at 93 Whitney Ave., said the construction has not affected the restaurant.

While Operations Manager Richard Bardman of the Peabody Museum of Natural History said residents are wary about the structure’s size and that the museum carefully monitors the vibrations from the construction site added as yet they have not been cause for alarm.

“We would be concerned with whether the vibrations disturb some of the dinosaur collections!” Bardman said.

He added that he thinks the new campus will attract more museum visitors.

Blango added new SOM proposal will reap economic benefits for New Haven residents and that Yale made multiple concessions before the vote. Many residents disagreed with the structure of the building and the construction materials added Blango. Another major concern was the large size of the courtyard, which Yale later reduced. Yale also decided to build a loading dock behind the new building to address questions about traffic along Whitney Avenue.

The PDD was in compliance with the city requirement that architects must hire at least 25 percent of workers from New Haven. Yale worked with the unions, and the New Haven regional workforce, and Equal Opportunity in New Haven.

Blango said the building project is important because it shows that New Haven is still prospering despite the economic recession. Blango added that the campus replaces a 100 year-old building that posed health hazards such as asbestos and was run down.

When asked for his reaction to Shansky’s complaint, Ward 1 Michael Jones’11 said the aldermen gave full consideration to every aspect of the plan within the scope of their expertise, but that does not include architecture.

“Perhaps it would be more useful for [Shansky] to question the PDD process in general,” he said.

Jones said that there has been “a lot of confusion” regarding the usage and application of PDDs, which may prompt the board to revisit PDD standards in the coming years.

Corradino ordered each attorney to submit another brief ten days after receiving each party’s documents.

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