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From Across the Aisle 2/12/16

Many town residents have approached me with questions about the future of the Country Club of Woodbridge (CCW). It appears that the First Selectman favors a plan presented by Toll Brothers to close the golf course and pool and build 69 age-restricted housing units on 36 acres in the northwest quadrant of the property, near the intersection of Johnson and Ansonia Roads.

This scheme poses a sticky problem, because such dense development is not permitted under Woodbridge’s zoning regulations. The CCW is located in the Residential A zone, where lot size of at least 1.5 acres is required. It is not a trivial matter to change zoning to triple the residential density allowed on the CCW; such a radical change could open the door to similar dense development on some undeveloped parcels throughout the entire Residential A zone—about 90% of the town.

The purpose of zoning is to protect homeowners and safeguard the character of neighborhoods by setting out exactly what uses are permitted on all properties that fall within the same zone. By ensuring predictability in land use, zoning helps maintain property values. When you buy a home, you want to know that your neighbor can’t put up a gas station, or a strip mall, or a condo complex, because that would damage your property value and your quality of life.

Almost two years ago, the First Selectman hired New Haven attorney Marjorie Shansky to give an opinion as to whether the Town of Woodbridge could craft regulations that would allow condo development but confine that zoning change to the CCW property alone. Selectman Joe Dey verbally requested a copy of that opinion in January of 2015 but was refused. Only after Cathy Wick filed a formal Freedom of Information request for the document was it released by the First Selectman. (You can read the opinion on the Woodbridge Republican Party website www.WoodbridgeGOP.org.)

It is understandable that the First Selectman did not want to release Attorney Shansky’s opinion, since it gives absolutely NO assurance that a zoning change for the CCW will avoid a judicial finding of illegal “spot zoning”. Spot zoning is defined as a regulation that benefits a single parcel of land by creating a zone just for that parcel that is different from the surrounding properties in the area. Apparently, since this first legal opinion did not do the trick, the administration has gone shopping for another outside lawyer to provide yet another outside opinion, all at Woodbridge taxpayer expense.

To change zoning regulations to allow dense residential development at the CCW property is to take a colossal risk. Responsible town officials ought not wade into these shark-infested waters. To do so is to invite protracted, expensive lawsuits by deep-pocketed national corporations with a history of running roughshod over small communities like ours. To do so is to destroy a neighborhood and the value of the properties therein, making the sale of a home near the CCW problematic, if not impossible. To do so is to squander Woodbridge’s unique status as the only town in Connecticut that borders a major city but feels like a rural community, just to satisfy short term finances.

           Maria Cruz Kayne, Selectman, is an unaffiliated voter who ran on the Republican ticket.
Contact # 203-887- 9065

 

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