Input by the residents of any town is the best way to live by the motto “if the people lead, our leaders will follow.” People can and should be aware of important issues, formulate informed opinions and share those opinions in a firm and respectful way with civic leaders. This is especially true now as our town has been brought under a warped magnifying glass by outsiders looking to rip up our well-thought-out zoning laws.
On November 30, 2020 the Town Plan and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on the application of 2 Orchard Rd, LLC and Open Communities Trust, LLC to allow multi-family housing in all residential areas of Woodbridge, and to convert an existing single-family home into a multi-family structure. While a variety of current social forces (COVID limitations, holidays, etc.) seem to have dampened resident participation in the hearing, several of our fellow residents have bravely jumped into this fray to speak up and point out the many flaws in the proposals. They are to be commended, and their lucid points are echoed here.
On the subject of the proposal to construct a 4-family building, complete with a 9-car parking lot on what is now a single family lot at 2 Orchard Road (at the corner of Newton Road), many great observations were made and questions asked. How does a well that currently provides potable water for one family provide sufficient water for four families? Those with well water and residential water treatment systems are cognizant of the need to monitor water usage so that the well does not run dry, especially during periods of drought. With four families sharing one well, who takes on that task? And what impact does that much water draw have on neighbors’ wells? Furthermore, how can we be sure the design and size of the proposed septic system will not pose a threat to groundwater and well water at the site and adjacent properties? What are the traffic safety/congestion issues of going from 1-2 cars utilizing a driveway to as many as 9 cars parking at the site? Moreover, shouldn’t the applicants reveal their financial interest in the project? Is it a coincidence that a rental unit in Woodbridge commands a higher rental rate than similar units in other nearby towns? All good questions and observations.
The broader effort of the application is to wipe out the town’s single family, 1.5-acre residential zoning to make room for multi-family units throughout Woodbridge. Here’s where our fellow residents really zero in on the damage this would cause. More people mean more traffic congestion. Residents of lower Woodbridge and anyone trying to get on the Merritt on weekday mornings will respond with a big “no thank you” (we’re a polite group). More families mean more students. It was noted that the slight increase in tax revenue from a multi-family home vs. a single-family home does not come close to offsetting the cost of increasing our student population. Higher residential density is a path to a larger police force and expanded fire department. All together these changes add up to even higher taxes.
Maybe the most glaring issue is the race card played by the applicants. They present a town whose percentage of “black and brown” people is lower than neighboring New Haven/CT at large, and claim these numbers show the town is exclusionary. Yet in the application our Asian population is blatantly ignored. Why? Maybe because the inclusion of our Asian residents blows the “statistical analysis” of our racial mix out of the water. The fact is that 15% of us are Asian. This was pointed out by multiple Woodbridge neighbors who are Asian. And the further irony is that two members of the applicants’ team are Asian themselves. (You can’t make this up.) The outrage residents expressed about the applicants’ characterization of Woodbridge as a town of segregationists was consistent – it is incorrect, wildly off-base and offensive.
There are other long-standing, important issues facing us including the future of the golf course, the disposition of the old fire house and our never-ending mill rate increases. Newer challenges include the possible location for a new cell tower and needed repairs to the roof of Beecher Road School. But today, this threat to our zoning overshadows all. We would be wise, as a town, to sit up, take notice and speak out.
By Chuck Pyne WRTC Chairman