Conn. Community Rejects Yale Sailing Expansion

Yale formally withdrew a request to expand its sailing center this summer after members of the nearby Branford community of South Beach protested the plans.

The school had drawn up a proposal to expand the sailing center, which is used by both the Yale varsity sailing team and community members for sailing lessons, through the purchase of two properties across the street. With the expansion, Yale would have been able to construct a larger building to store more boats and house staff. But after a public hearing with around 200 residents from the area present, Yale attorney Joseph Hammer decided to cancel the request.

“The best course is to withdraw the present application,” Hammer stated at the end of a three-hour hearing held at a fire station in Branford. “We still think the property does present an opportunity to improve the yacht club without expanding the programs and without expanding the number of boats.”

When the plans were announced at a community meeting earlier this summer, the New Haven Register reported that so many citizens turned out that some had to listen outside through open windows and a fire marshal came to shut it down.

The Civic Association of South Beach is responsible for granting permits, and under the area’s zoning law, Yale University cannot build housing unless it obtains one.

South Beach residents had raised concerns that the expansion would increase congestion in the area and worried that the new structures would tower over existing homes.

At the last meeting, residents wore bright yellow stickers that all read “No Yale Expansion.”

Yale entered a sales contract to purchase the land — which is 20 minutes away from Old Campus by car — from the estate of property owner Barbara Davidson. Property co-owner Elizabeth Bailey was the only community member to express support for the plans at the meeting on July 14, according to the Register. The rest of the residents hired a lawyer to represent opposition to Yale’s plans, who reportedly said the university’s application was “insufficient.”

According to the same Register article, residents also worried that expanding the center would lead to more unruly behavior by Yale students, with one woman complaining that she had seen students having sex outside the boathouse and a student had insulted her husband.

“If Yale has outgrown their facilities, then I say they have outgrown our neighborhood,” added resident Clarice Begemann at the meeting.

But Zach Leonard, head varsity sailing coach, said he thought the sailing team has a mostly positive relationship with the local community. Leonard believes “old stories” about the team have continued to circulate among neighbors.

He said expansion would have created more parking, allowing more community members to participate in the club’s sailing offerings.

“We’re always trying to find ways to improve our operations here and [the expansion plans were] part of that,” Leonard said. “It’s been a twenty year process and we’ve got to keep working at it.”

Sailing team member Megan Valentine ’16 said that while she had been excited by expansion plans, the existing facility meets the team’s needs. Valentine said she did not think the withdrawal of plans would compromise the team’s training or morale.

She disagreed, however, with residents’ characterization of Yale’s relationship with Short Beach. Valentine lived in New Haven last summer and occasionally attended Tuesday evening regattas open to the community. She noted that the facility also provides summer sailing lessons.

“For the most part, we got along really well,” Valentine said.

The Yale sailing team has trained at the Branford facility since 1953.


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