Every neighborhood counts. One of the primary goals of my 20 year tenure on the Woodbridge Conservation Commission and my current tenure on the Board of Selectmen has been to protect the quality of life in every neighborhood in our town. This has been a constant battle that continues to this day. Currently the Country Club neighborhood and the Village District are under threat, but every neighborhood is vulnerable.
Connecticut is one of several states with laws designed to prevent individual towns from zoning in such a way as to exclude affordable housing. These laws undoubtedly are well intentioned, designed to prevent discrimination and to promote diversity. Those are laudable goals. However, the laws also have some unintended consequences that can burden small towns like Woodbridge.
Under Connecticut’s existing affordable housing statute (aka 8-30g), if less than 10% of a town’s existing housing stock is not ”affordable” based on housing cost related to median income, then a property owner can have a proposal for affordable housing development approved by the state rather than by the local town zoning board. Local zoning regulations have no power to stop this. Because the state is very interested in promoting affordable housing, most of these proposals are readily approved.
Our neighbors in Milford have been plagued by a aflood of affordable housing projects in the last several years. Readers of the New Haven Register have seen many articles about the hundreds of Milford residents who have attended meetings of the Planning and Zoning Board to protest these large, dense developments in their neighborhoods.
Woodbridge falls under the 10% threshold, having very little housing that is considered affordable. Therefore, Woodbridge is extremely vulnerable to a developer who might propose to build an affordable housing project here. This vulnerability is one of the main reasons why the Town rushed to purchase the Woodbridge Country Club in 2009 for what many people believe was a price far above market value. Because the CCW is on a public water and sewer line, a developer could have threatened to build hundreds of units there, and our Town zoning regulations would have been irrelevant.
A very important piece of land that is extremely vulnerable to the affordable housing law is the 15 acres at the intersection of Bradley Road and Litchfield Turnpike, owned by Woodbridge Village Associates. Under Woodbridge’s current zoning, a maximum of 150 units can be built there. But if a developer decides to propose an affordable housing project on that parcel, the density could be vastly increased, perhaps doubled! In addition, our Town Plan and Zoning Commission might not be able to enforce the maximum building height requirement, to specify the number of bedrooms in each unit, to require that the development be a condo rather than a rental, or to enforce any of the aesthetic rules that can be required in traditional developments.
I urge town leaders to take a proactive approach and encourage an upscale, attractive development on the Woodbridge Village site that will benefit the neighborhood, the developers, and the town as a whole.
By Selectman Maria Cruz Kayne