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From the First Selectman 10/28/16

The Country Club of Woodbridge saga continues. The facts have changed and there are plenty of rumors to sort through. It is time to cut our losses and develop a plan to clean up the property, bring it within our no pesticide policy and convert it to true open space for the entire Town to enjoy.

Here are the latest facts. Everything that we’ve seen and heard confirms that our property has little value as a golf course because it requires such extensive and costly renovations. The Board of Selectmen (BOS) heard from Billy Casper Golf (BCG) that needed repairs are in the millions of dollars. BCG also chose not to continue our contract (unless the Town took the risk of loss, which in the past resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of unanticipated cost to the Town) because of concerns about the state of the golf course. A proposal by a developer and the Head Coach of the Yale Men’s Golf Team to purchase the CCW (for a mere $500,000) estimated that the course would need a $3.5-$4.5 million investment. And another “proposal” for the entire parcel has been withdrawn by the proponents who determined that their offer – $700,000 with the right to develop part of the property (a concept that was dead on arrival) – was too high given the necessary costs of repair.

The recent proposal from Redan Reserve was actually a purchase of land – not the purchase of the existing golf facility. Redan contemplated tearing up the golf course and starting from scratch. That proposal has now been withdrawn because Redan Reserve is focusing on reaching a deal with Yale to renovate only the Yale Golf Course at this time, rather than doing it in tandem with the nearly contiguous Country Club of Woodbridge property.

I know there are many rumors going around. You may have heard that the golf course and clubhouse are very valuable – worth millions—and that people are clamoring to buy it. The fact is that the Town showed the property to anyone who was interested – a university, golf course operators, a church, restaurateurs and a caterer – and after they inspected the property and the clubhouse, there were no takers.

On the development side, the Town had received a proposal for active adult housing from Toll Brothers that the BOS voted not to pursue at this time. The BOS heard from many Woodbridge residents who are vehemently opposed to any development on the land. More recently, several residents have expressed surprise that the Town would not consider the Toll Brothers option – to purchase approximately 45 of the 150 acres for $5 million and build active adult housing with the Town retaining a large portion of the land. That would certainly be a more fiscally conservative option, but one not likely to pass, given the depth and extent of the opposition to development.

Thus, there are no private sector proposals in front of the Board of Selectmen at this time. We have spent nearly $10 million on this property, including the $7 million purchase price, and I believe it is time for the BOS and the Town to stop our losses and make some hard decisions. Since golf operations end within the next few months, we need a vision and plan for this property. The BOS is exploring various iterations of converting the land to open space. One can envision a spectacular public park for everyone to enjoy. Over time, this could include wildflower meadows and other types of gardens, walking and bike paths, an ice skating rink, and various other recreational opportunities.

Our next steps will likely cost between $1.5M and $2M (without adding any recreational options). Importantly, we will be able to plan for the upcoming costs and time them in conjunction with other Town needs. And most importantly, by keeping this land we retain an asset of high value for our Town, now and into the future.

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