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From Across the Aisle 3/11/16

Recently, members of town boards and commissions were invited to two joint Special Meetings regarding the latest development proposals at the Country Club of Woodbridge (CCW). This makes seven meetings about the CCW since September; despite my requests, the First Selectman has refused to include public comment on the agendas of these meetings.

About 20 commissioners attended the meeting on February 18th, where the First Selectman presented a brief history of the Town’s ownership of the CCW and the multiple failed attempts at creating a plan for its future. A table showed six options with scant detail. It is clear the First Selectman favors a proposal by Toll Brothers to build 69 age restricted units on 36 acres – triple the building density permitted by zoning regulations.

Commission members raised a series of excellent questions throughout the meeting and provided new facts:

  • Golf operations have improved dramatically since Billy Casper Golf (BCG) took over in 2012.
  • CCW hosted 210 outings last year, of which 97% are returning again this year.
  • The golf course was voted BCG’s 2015 Most Improved of its 162 courses nationwide . Its Superintendent was fittingly voted Best of 2015 as well.
  • CCW was featured in Golf Digest in December 2015. The author, renowned journalist David Owen, wrote, “The selectmen of the town of Woodbridge are thinking about turning part of the course into condominiums for oldish people, or something, but I hope they don’t…”.
  • A recent post on the Conserve Woodbridge Facebook page by Deke Hotchkiss, CCW Commission chair, states that the town can negotiate a much more favorable contract with BCG for the future, and that the town can break even on golf operations in 2017.

One commissioner asked an important question about zoning. Many residents, myself included, are concerned that a zoning change to allow high-density development will spread beyond the CCW to other vulnerable properties. The First Selectman has solicited legal opinions on rezoning, and is claiming it is not a problem. But the opinions are not as clear cut as she portrays. The case law is complex, and such zoning would expose the Town – at a minimum – to lawsuits by other landowners. The legal opinions offer no guarantee that the town would prevail if sued. Further, when pressed at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting, one of the hired attorneys admitted that while the Town can attempt to place restrictions on the sale, “sometimes that’s not enough” because of state statutes that give certain developers the right to circumvent local zoning. Despite the First Selectman’s assertions, questions surrounding the town-wide effects of a zoning change for the CCW are far from settled.

One specific suggestion from the audience was to move the town Recreation Department, Fitness Center, and Senior Center to the CCW clubhouse, an idea enthusiastically received in the room. The meeting ended with one commissioner addressing the First Selectman thus: “We should consider another use for that building. There are plenty of other options…we’ve got to be creative. This is where you show leadership….there’s plenty of ways you can redo that building for a lot of different activities. And I think this is where the rubber hits the road. You’ve got to go out there and creatively develop those options.” I couldn’t agree more.

Maria Cruz Kayne, Selectman is an Unaffiliated Voter who ran on the Republican Ticket. Contact # 203-387-5922.

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