After community, political and government pushback, a petition by the Diocese of Bridgeport to host a two-year college program offered by Fairfield University on Jewett Avenue in the North End has been abandoned.
The following appears on the Zoning Commission agenda:
D-1 (22-05) 238 Jewett Ave. – Petition of The Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocesan Corporation – Seeking a special permit and a site plan review to permit the establishment of a 2-year Associates Degree program by Fairfield University in a portion of the existing Diocese headquarters building in the R-A zone. WITHDRAWN on 05/24/22
Neighborhood leaders, including City Councilwoman Michelle Lyons, oppose the plan citing traffic and congestion concerns that would devalue area properties. Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez and former State Rep. Chris Caruso were also key voices against the proposal.
Lopez, on behalf of two city residents including Lyons, submitted a notice of appeal to the Zoning Board of Appeals challenging Zoning Administrator’s Dennis Buckley’s decision citing permissible use. Buckley’s decision was based on an initial opinion by city legal counsel Russell Liskov calling for a permitted education use because 238 Jewett Avenue was once the site of Notre Dame Girls High School.
For some, Liskov’s legal opinion was befuddling. That area of the North End 50 years ago was a heavily farmed area dramatically different from today’s intensive residential configuration. In addition, the zoning application clearly stated “Bellarmine College.”
As Lopez noted in the appeal, “What is proposed for 238 Jewett Avenue, consistent with any reasonable reading of the Regulations, is a college, not a school.”
The opposition resonated with Mayor Joe Ganim and the City Attorney’s Office.
One month ago City Attorney R. Christopher Meyer declared in a legal opinion, 238 Jewett Legal Opinion, that the proposal is not a permissible use under zoning regulations.
Meyer, in an interview with OIB, stated a college must be treated differently than a broadly termed education facility because of its intense use.
Ganim added that Fairfield University should examine the University of Bridgeport campus as a location. “While I really like the concept by Fairfield University and the positive impact it will make in the lives of Bridgeport youth, I do believe we should protect our neighborhoods from such intense use.”