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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Westville plan aired

Westville amenable to students moving in UNH makes plea to allow 200 seniors in apartments

By Mary E. O’Leary
Register Topics Editor
NEW HAVEN
— After two hours of venting their frustration with the developer of a Westville apartment complex, some 70 neighbors Monday indicated a willingness to let students from a local university fill one of the buildings on the site for a limited lease.
University of New Haven President Steven Kaplan made his case to send 200 UNH seniors to live in one 60-apartment building at the Wintergreen at Westville development starting in August for nine and one-half months to help it meet a housing crunch.
The neighbors of the Westville Village complex have fought for years with Metropolitan Developers whom they accused of misleading them about their plans.
“Wintergreen has lied to us from day one,” one of the neighbors said,
When the city approved Wintergreen in a planned development district it said the complex could not be used for dorms or student housing without a major amendment that would have to go back for approval by the Board of Aldermen.
Kaplan and Wintergreen attorney, Michael Lasso, said they are talking to the city about the possibility of an agreement, short of a new PDD amendment, that would allow the students to move in under UNH control for one year only.
Kaplan and Dean of Students Becky Johnson said the UNH students would be monitored by three resident advisors, plus a resident director, and would be held to its strict code of conduct against disruptive noise and other behavior.
The university would provide a shuttle to transport the students to the UNH campus three miles away.
He said they already have 240 students living in the Forest Hills apartments in West Haven and have not had problems with their neighbors; 60 other students live at the Regency in West Haven with similar outcomes.
Kaplan and three student resident advisors said UNH is not a party school, that the majority of the student body are public safety majors and adhere to the schools rules or face discipline.
“These are very good young people. They are subjected to pretty strict rules,” Kaplan said. “We’re asking you to help us,” he said to the audience.
The president said one of its goals is to teach students how to live in community, “how to live together and interact together,” which is why they would prefer to have the 200 live on one site, where the university could continue to have oversight.
Wintergreen has a total of 350 apartments in five buildings on Blake Street, one-half block from the Westville Village center.
Kaplan said the students are expected to be mainly upperclassmen chosen in a lottery system.
The Wintergreen of Westville Web site shows apartments ranging from $1,060 for one-bedroom units to $2,600 for three-bedroom apartments with two and one-half baths.
Christine Gouizi, marketing director, said they cannot refuse to rent to students and she would prefer to have them all in one building.
Kaplan said if they cannot move their students into Wintergreen, students are likely to rent there without the oversight of the university.
Thea Buxbaum, an activist in Westville, suggested several of the group meet with the developers and UNH as the discussions proceed with the ultimate goal of a limited lease, if that is the consensus.
The major concern of the crowd was setting a precedent that would allow other universities to move in students. Several references were to students from nearby Southern Connecticut State University who had trashed private housing rentals in the area.
“This plan is not terrible,” said Mary Faulkner of the Westville Management Team, “but we are in the vicinity of Southern whose reputation is not the same.”
John Sawyer said his dream is to have a “graduate ghetto” in the Westville Village, like there is in East Rock with Yale University graduate students and this arrangement might be the start of that.
He asked that the hostility to the developers not be the reason to kill the UNH proposal.
UNH did not have answers yet on whether its police force could help patrol students.
Westville resident Bob Bradley told the crowd it should take Carlos Vasquez, the Metropolitan partner, at his word, that the building will fill by October with other tenants, if the UNH proposal is not acceptable.
“I don’t see the economic benefit,” Bradley said of the UNH plan, although others feared the apartments will stay unrented because of the recent market crisis.
Mary E. O’Leary can be reached at 789-5731 or moleary@nhregister.com

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