Twelve years ago, upperclassmen at Quinnipiac University made an exodus from dorm life due to a shortage of space.
Now, after construction of the York Hill Campus dorms, the school is working to bring those students back with various degrees of success, but not enough to satisfy the Planning and Zoning Commission, and especially residents living in neighborhoods where students rent privately-owned homes.
On Tuesday the commission reviewed the recently-submitted QU five-year plan that emphasises that goal but also shows continuing increasing enrollment figures that give the commission cause for concern.
"The growth in enrollment is troubling and has never been adequately explained to the commission," Asst. Town Planner Dan Kops told the commission and the QU officials in attendance.
In a few years the university will not be in compliance with a condition of the approval for the construction of the York Hill Campus that required the school to guarantee every student a bed, Kops said.
Technically it's not yet in violation, he said, but the proposed numbers show it will without the construction of 600 more planned units.
And while much of the university's growth centers around its North Haven campus, where the new medical school will open and the law school will move, there's a fear that even there it will heighten the need for housing in Hamden, Kops said.
There are five privately owned properties that are chronic problems for neighbors and the police, he said, and some of them don't have the proper student housing permits.
"When all is said and done, the five-year plan is unacceptable," Kops said. "It fails to live up to its pledge to provide housing while continuing to expand enrollment."
"It seems to be the prevalent sentiment that the growth in enrollment is a bad thing and that they should be ashamed of it," QU attorney Bernard Pelligrino said. "I disagree -- the fact that they continue to grow is something that should be applauded and is integral to the growth of the town of Hamden.
"We are lucky enough to have expanded enrollment when others are going in the other direction," he said. "I am not going to apologize for it and feel the criticism is misguided."
The problem is not the growing enrollment, he said, but the problem of students living off campus and causing problems in the neighborhoods. And that's a problem both the school and the town can agree on, he said.
"We are both on the same page and this is where we should focus," he said.
The university owns 51 single-family home to which it rents out to students, he said. Those homes are not the problem because they are under university supervision and must adhere to all its rules and regulations, Pelligrino said.
It's the privately-owned homes that owner rent out to students that have caused the most problems, he said. Landlords put many students into a house, making it cheaper for the students to rent there rather than live in university housing, and are not under the direct purview of the school concerning behavior issues.
But even with those homes, there are only five that are chronic problems, Pelligrino said, where police are called multiple times during the school year.
"It's a handful of incidents at defined locations," he said. "You are looking to handcuff the town's largest employer and the largest economic engine in town because of five locations and it doesn't make sense."