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From Across the Aisle: Can A Person Get A Little Info?

Two hot issues have appeared on the Woodbridge scene of late, yet information from Town Hall has been meager, at best.  We are a small town and when events occur that cause our residents to mobilize or otherwise ask a LOT of questions, our local leaders, I respectfully submit, have an obligation to keep us informed.  Instead, we have been left in the dark.

The first topic is the proposed cell tower to be erected on private property on Soundview Drive.  Verizon approached the property owner due to the desirable elevated location and the amount of open space available on the property.  The Town was notified of this proposal in mid-July.  It was weeks before the neighbors became aware of it.  That’s not good communication.  Whether one believes the tower should go there or not is not the issue here.  The problem is that the current administration sat on the information and did not inform the neighbors let alone the town as a whole.  In fact, concerned neighbors sent a mailer at their own expense to every address in town with more information than has been provided to residents to date.  That’s certainly not the transparency our local leadership has promised over and over.

The second topic with even a potentially broader impact on Woodbridge is the submission of a zoning variance for the 1.5-acre, single-family property at 2 Orchard Road.  The potential buyer of the property is asking for a variance to erect a 4-family unit on the parcel.  But this is no ordinary application.  It is a 145-page document that not only sets the stage to attempt to nullify our single-family 1.5 or 2-acre zoning system town-wide, but also uses terms including “exclusionary,” “illegally limiting multi-family opportunities,” “segregation” and “discriminatory.”  The things being said about our town are terrible!  While our First Selectman may be limited in what can be said in public about a pending application, it is certainly within her rights, and indeed her obligation, to defend the town and explain the basis for the zoning we have today.  So, let us look, briefly, at the actual history of our zoning laws.

Our current zoning laws were first adopted in 1932.  Stated in the first paragraph: “For the purpose of promoting the health, safety and general welfare of the community; for the purpose of lessening congestion in the streets; for the purpose of securing safety from fire, panic and other dangers; for the purpose of preserving the overcrowding of land and avoiding undue concentration of population; for the purpose of facilitating adequate provision of transportation, water, sewage, schools, parks and other public requirements; for the purpose of conserving the value of the buildings and encouraging the most appropriate use of land throughout the town.”

To be sure, there have been changes since 1932, but the foundational ideas have served our community well.  They are not discriminatory in nature, far from it.  They are practical and stated clearly.  In most of Woodbridge the house lots lack access to public water or public sewage treatment.  Consequently, larger lots are needed to accommodate the health and safety demands of septic systems and private wells.  Conversely, in lower Woodbridge, where lots are smaller, public water and sewer are generally available.  Our First Selectman can provide further detail on the zoning requirements to accommodate private wells and septic systems.  The point is every Woodbridge resident should be informed on this issue and be able to defend our Town from the baseless accusations made in the application.  I have spoken to the First Selectman twice on this issue thus far and she told me this application came as a complete surprise to her the day of the press conference held by the applicant’s attorneys at our Town Hall.  But from that day forward there should have been a stream of information about this issue available to all residents.  While I am sure none of us consider ourselves segregationists, we do need facts to nullify the damage to the Town’s reputation such accusations bring.

Going forward, we request as much transparency as is humanly possible (without harming the Town’s position to defend itself legally when required) on issues that may impact our Town’s finances, schools, taxes and general quality of life.

By Chuck Pyne

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