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Urban Planner Suggests Limited Development For Golf Course
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent
Three months after Woodbridge residents were invited to a community conversation on the Country Club, they were invited back to the Center Gym last week to hear the suggestion of a land-use consultant and react to it.
The consultant, Michael Looney, with the firm of Milone and McBroom, recommended to parcel out just under 30 acres along both sides of Woodfield Road for development, but leave the golf course and swimming pool for public use. That will allow the town to offset a portion of the purchase cost of $6.9 million, and generate income from building permits and taxes. The development could be detached single-family homes or attached townhouses, with an age restriction.
The existing club house, which is in need of a new roof and other upgrades, should be made the responsibility of the potential developer, who may choose to use it or tear it down, Looney said. In its stead a smaller facility and parking could be built off Johnson Road. In his broad scenario, he was just pointing to where a new clubhouse could be sited, not who would pay for it or what is needed.
The recommendation, he said, was based on the two community conversations that took place in October, which he attended, and where the option of some senior housing came up repeatedly, combined with the wish to preserve to the greatest extent possible.
Many of the reactions to his recommendation were reminiscent of the discussion in 2011, when the late First Selectman Ed Sheehy proposed to develop 17 of the 155 acres for active adult housing. That vote – in referendum – was defeated, 587 to 1,109.
Some people in the audience pointed out that dense development is not in sync with the Plan of Conservation and Development for that area of town. “People like privacy and open space,” said Michael Broderick, adding that is why they moved to Woodbridge. “Plus the school system.” Several commented on the fact that another senior housing development is already approved for the “Woodbridge Village District” in the commercial area.
Cathy Wick, for one, called the proposal very “back-looking.” According to the principles of new urbanism, walk-ability with mixed commercial and residential uses is what planners nowadays are looking for to repair the suburban sprawl. That is the idea behind the Town Plan and was reaffirmed in the Yale plan for the Village District, she said. “Work with the developer and get that project built,” she said to the selectmen. However, as First Selectman Ellen Scalettar pointed out, the reality is, “it hasn’t happened.” It is a private project, and sinking real estate prices may have discouraged the developers from getting the project off the ground.
Chuck Pyne criticized the process, saying selectmen should have hired a developer rather than an urban planner to come up with the solution. The town should solicit real options from real developers, he said, to be able to separate fact from fiction and have exact financial figures to base their decision on.
One speaker thought the proposal was “too conservative” as far as the scope of development is concerned, others hoped selectmen would stop the process and think it over. “Let’s get creative,” said Erich Davis, who suggested to work with Yale and bring a sculpture park to Woodbridge.
Scalettar in her introduction pointed out that the golf operation had a budgetary shortfall of about $1 million since the town purchased the Woodbridge Country Club property in 2009 to prevent “uncontrolled development”. It has become clear, that “simply operating it as a golf course is not an option we can afford,” she said.
Scalettar pointed out that even without the golf operation, the town would still have to maintain the course and lease the equipment to do so, which would cost about $400,000 above and beyond the annual debt payment of $400,000. Instead, she renegotiated the contract with Billy Casper Golf for the company to continue the golf operation and cap the town’s annual losses at $200,000. Any losses above and beyond will be borne by BCG. The new contract also allows the town to withdraw should the town decide to give up on the golf operation.
“Some people would like to develop the whole property, some people would like to leave it as open space,” she said, adding that it would be very expensive to convert the golf course to other uses. The goal is to balance open space with limited development, she said. “Fiscal responsibility is the key.”
Looney called it critical for the town’s future to find a solution, but also a chance for the town to achieve a vision. He also encouraged the town to give the revised contract with Billy Casper Golf a chance.
The next step will be for the developers to weigh in. To that effect, the Town will put out a Request for Proposal (RFP), the parameters of which will be determined by the Board of Selectmen, Scalettar said. It will give selectmen the opportunity to direct the type of development “in keeping with the character of the town and for the protection of the neighborhood, including appropriate traffic planning,” she said. Should the proposal involve sale of land, it will come back to voters, she said, either in Town Meeting or referendum. “It is important that we have a plan that will pass,” she said.
In the meantime, the Board of Selectmen have hired Anthony Taddei, “the smiling pool director,” to continue managing the pool in conjunction with the Recreation Commission for the upcoming summer season. Pool rates for the season will be $900 for a single resident/$1,025 non resident; $1,325 for a resident family/$1,500 non-resident. The Recreation Commission is considering to offer some kind of combined membership with the indoor Beecher pool.
Golf rates are for a single membership, $2,300 public; $1,900 resident; for a family membership, $3,450 public; $2,800 resident. Last season, they had more than 70 golf memberships and about 122 pool memberships. Of the pool members, about 30 were non-resident, Genovese said.
Boy Scout Troop 63, meetings Monday nights from 7:00 pm – 8:30pm, Our Lady of the Assumption "Mother" Church, 1700 Litchfield Turnpike (Rte. 69), Woodbridge; September- April and May-June outdoors at Camp Whiting, all boys ages 10 and up or who have completed the fifth grade are welcome to stop by and see what we're all about. For more information, visit http://www.troop963.org or email Troop63CT@gmail.com.
Woodbridge Republican Town Committee Meetings, second Tuesday of each month. For more information, contact Dorothy Martino at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-397-1547 or Kathy Gartland, email@example.com or 203-387-8792.
Woodbridge Rotary Club Meetings, 1st and 3rd Friday of the month, 7:30am breakfast meeting, Country Corner Diner, 756 Amity Toad, Bethany and the 2nd and 4th Friday of the month, 12:15pm luncheon meeting, Carmine Tuscan Grill, 1500 Whalley Avenue, New Haven. Anyone interested in learning more about Rotary should contact Anna Dickerson at 203-710-0223 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annual Fund Drive for Bethany's Clark Memorial Library, contributions requested to help for the cost of a website to update services, etc.
Trap Falls Kennel Club Obedience Classes, every level, AKC STAR Puppy (obedience for dogs under 12 months) and Family Manners Classes/Obedience & Canine Good Citizen; Wednesday and Thursday evenings, Pawz for Wellness in Shelton, CT. For registration and/or information, call 203-450-9485 or email email@example.com. Trap Falls Kennel Club is a non-profit member club of the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Bethwood Softball, now accepting player registrations for its Spring season; Girls living in Bethany and Woodbridge between the ages of 6-14 years old are eligible to play. For more information and to register on-line, visit: http://www.bethwoodsoftball.org/.
Amity Parent Support Group, meets every other Friday morning, 7:45am, Woodbridge Senior Center Lounge, 4 Meetinghouse Lane, sponsored by Amity High School, Woodbridge Youth Services and the Orange Drug and Alcohol Action Committee, local parents who struggle with children who are, or may be involved with, substance abuse share experiences and concerns in a confidential setting, For more information, please contact Nancy Pfund at 203-389-3429, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.