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Yacht club sails into rough waters

From time to time, Yale’s expansion plans bump up against neighborhood opposition. This summer, the neighborhood is not in New Haven, but in the shoreline town of Branford, where an overflow crowd last night prompted a fire official to shut down a public hearing on a proposed expansion of the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club.

The club, which describes itself as “the nation's oldest collegiate sailing organization, dating back to 1881,” sits on a cove in Branford’s residential Short Beach neighborhood. Home to the Yale sailing team, the club also offers sailing lessons for adults and children in the summer.

Last month, Yale submitted a plan to buy two nearby properties and build a new boathouse and staff residence. The proposal to the Civic Association of Short Beach—which has legal authority to deny the project—“triggered intense reaction, including a petition campaign and handmade signs all over the community that say: ‘No Yale Expansion,’” the Branford Eagle reports.

The civic association scheduled a public hearing for last night. It drew “approximately 100 people inside the small room, some standing, some seated and some on the floor,” the Eagle says. “Outside there were another 100 lined up trying to listen through open windows.”

Yale has a contract to purchase two adjoining properties that are across the street from the Yacht Club. The overall goal, according to the “statement of use” that Yale submitted last month, is to “support existing Yacht Club activities.”

Specifically, the university wants to tear down a two-room cottage, replacing it with “a new boathouse with boat and equipment storage on the first level and living quarters for seasonal staff on the upper level,” the statement of use says. Those living quarters will consist of two bedrooms, housing up to four people.

The proposal also calls for converting an existing larger house into a year-round home for the director of the Yale sailing program “and his or her family.” A third existing house would become “an accessory building for office and storage space for the sailing director’s residence.”

In addition, the plan would include off-street parking—crucial, since the narrow road has no room for parked cars.

Opposition seems to focus on the height of the proposed new building—29 feet, one foot below the maximum allowed in the residential zone—the loss of trees, and parking.

“Yale clearly can’t control the parking; they can’t control visitors, or the families of the students,” one neighbor told the Eagle. ”They open their vans on the street, they block traffic and fire hydrants and they want to now expand that and say that they are going to solve the problem when they are only going to exacerbate it.”

But the expansion would make things better, not worse, Yale contends.

“The uses of the Yacht Club will not change and the intensity of existing Yacht use will not increase,” the statement of use says.Rather, through the proposed plan, the existing use and area will function more efficiently and with less impact with regard to traffic, parking, and access to the property, and the convenience, safety and the aesthetics of the neighborhood will also be improved.”

University spokesman Tom Conroy adds in an e-mail: “Yale is glad to discuss the proposals with the community and address all questions and concerns as part of the approval process. We would like to improve the properties in question in support of the club and continue to be a good neighbor and an asset to the Short Beach community.”

The Short Beach civic association has not yet scheduled another hearing.


The Yale Alumni Magazine is published by Yale Alumni Publications Inc., an alumni-based nonprofit that is not run by Yale University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the university administration.

Filed under Yale Corinthian Yacht Club, real estate
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