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Hope Christian Church will host the Ulbrich Boys and Girls Club following Planning & Zoning Commission approval earlier this month. (Photo by Nathan Hughart/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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A controversial proposal to allow the Ulbrich Boys and Girls Club (UBGC) to expand into North Haven’s Hope Christian Church was approved with a compromise at the July 1 meeting of the Planning & Zoning Commission (PZC).
Founded in Wallingford in 1963, the UBGC is a branch of the Boys and Girls Club of America, which offers after-school enrichment programs for local students. Programs already established in Wallingford include leadership, arts, science, and career prep programs. The group hopes to offer students in North Haven similar opportunities.
“We really want to be able to help out the hard-working people of North Haven, people who have multiple kids, who can’t afford normal after-school care or can’t find after-school care,” said UBGC board member Erik Saranuzzo.
According to the club’s website www.ulbrichbgc.org, membership for the UBGC’s programs will cost $135 per year.
Though the organization is based in Wallingford, the UBGC’s North Haven Unit will be open only to North Haven students aged 6 to 12.
The group offers before-school and summer programs at its Wallingford location; Scaranuzzo said UBGC would be open to hosting those programs in North Haven if the interest is there.
At the proposal’s first public hearing at the June PZC meeting, neighbors of Hope Christian Church and others voiced their concerns about noise and traffic volume increases. The matter was continued because the UBGC held no information sessions with the neighbors.
Since then, the UBGC has held two meetings with 28 neighbors in attendance. Other residents of the town started an online petition in favor of the club, which had 214 signatures at press time.
“We have assured the neighbors in the surrounding area that we’re going to run a really well organized Boys and Girls Club and are respectful of our surroundings,” said Scaranuzzo.
Scaranuzzo said they addressed residents’ concerns by discussing traffic patterns with North Haven Deputy Police Chief Kevin Glenn and visiting local properties to access the need for fencing and foliage.
Members of the community spoke in favor of the UBGC’s application.
“I’m the one who started the petition that went all over Facebook. I started it because I knew there were tons of people…that are in support of this amazing organization that couldn’t get here tonight,” said Anna Buono of Alexander Drive. “Over and over, there are tons of comments from people that are in support, whether they have children or not.”
Some neighbors of the church still had their concerns.
“We’re not against the program. It’s an excellent program,” said Frank Daniele of Rock Road. “Everyone’s talking about how great it is. They don’t live next to it. We do. We’ll see anything and everything in that parking lot…I hear the air conditioner at the church. If I hear that, I’m going to hear…the cars, the buses [too].”
Scaranuzzo said the traffic may not be as bad as some anticipate.
“There’s some misconceptions here,” said Scaranuzzo.
Scaranuzzo said that though the club serves between 70 and 80 students per day at their Wallingford location, they expect less volume from North Haven. This, he said, would make the traffic situation less severe at Hope Christian Church.
UBGC expects around 50 enrollments in the program, but came to the board hoping for a cap on enrollment set to 100 so that the club had room to grow.
“Even though we might have a total of, let’s say, 50 people, even at the high point at 4 p.m.…some kids already got picked up, some kids are still there getting picked up…We say the pickup window is from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.,” Scaranuzzo said. “You’ll have four or five cars there at once.”
The PZC instead offered UBGC a cap of 70 students. UBGC will also have to plant a foliage barrier between the church and its neighbors and will be responsible for 50 percent of fencing costs for any neighbors who want one.
The UBGC hopes to open its doors at Hope Christian Church in time for the coming school year.
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