In a move that may complicate Yale’s plans to move graduate student housing around the corner from the Hall of Graduate Studies on York Street to a lot on Elm Street, the Board of Zoning Appeals postponed a hearing scheduled for Tuesday after a city zoning official raised concerns about Yale’s request.
The graduate housing — expected to rise six stories, with the first two devoted to commercial space — would contravene current zoning regulations for the parking lot, neighboring Tyco Printing, where Yale plans to the build the dormitory. Yale has applied for a variance from the board, which would allow the University to proceed with the construction in spite of the zoning violations. Before Tuesday’s hearing, Deputy Director of Zoning Thomas Talbot submitted a report arguing against Yale’s request for a variance. Yale’s attorneys subsequently asked the board to postpone the hearing to next month’s meeting.
University spokesman Tom Conroy said the University requested that the hearing be postponed so that it could “work to address comments made by city staff.” Conroy did not explicitly mention Talbot’s report.
At issue in the zoning dispute is the question of whether the board should grant a variance, an exception from the rules governing municipal land use, or Yale should be required to petition for wholesale changes to the regulations for the lot. Talbot argued that Yale should do the latter, according to the New Haven Independent.
Yale, meanwhile, argues that the irregular shape of the parking lot where it plans to build the housing creates a particular “hardship” in following the regulations, thus requiring a variance.
Ward 2 Alder Frank Douglas, who attended Tuesday’s hearing along with Ward 1 Alder Sarah Eidelson ’12 before learning that the discussion of Yale’s request had been postponed, said he has not yet fully formed an opinion on the proposed housing. He said he might have some concerns with the plan.
“I’m up for development in our city if it’s feasible for the city and the people,” he said. “There’s a lot of concerns that I have — parking, traffic and other issues — that need to be talked about.” He added that he would discuss the plans with his constituents in the Dwight neighborhood, adjacent to Yale’s campus, before making a decision on whether to support the proposal.
The availability of parking has proved a contentious issue. The proposed housing would include no parking spaces, even though zoning regulations stipulate that a building of that size must include 145 spaces.
In an interview with the News three weeks ago, when Yale first made its filing for a variance with the board, Matt Nemerson SOM ’81, New Haven Economic Development Administrator, said he did not expect parking concerns to derail the project. He added that the city tends to encourage developers to build “as little parking as they can” for projects downtown, where space is sparse.
Talbot, on the other hand, wants Yale to demonstrate that the downtown area will be able to handle an increase in vehicle circulation and demand for parking due to new retail on the lot. He is also disputing Yale’s claim that the proposed housing will not adversely affect the current character of the area, citing its height as proof that it would appear out of place.
Other downtown business owners — including the owners of Tyco, Ivy Noodle and Maison Mathis — wrote letters to the zoning board in favor of the proposed housing, arguing that it will have a positive impact on the downtown business community.
Lauren Zucker, Yale’s director of New Haven affairs, and City Plan Director Karyn Gilvarg did not respond to requests for comment.
Correction: Feb. 13
A previous version of this article misattributed the timing of quotations from Matt Nemerson SOM ’81. The article implied that Nemerson had spoken to the News directly before the article; in fact, the quotes were taken from an interview the News had conducted with Nemerson three weeks ago, for a previous article on the proposed housing.