Several times in the past few months, the First Selectman has referred to what she calls a “need” for age restricted housing in Woodbridge. Is there a genuine need, or is there simply a “want” expressed by a small group? I would suggest that those fortunate few who can afford to downsize into a $500,000 home, such as the homes being proposed by Toll Brothers at the Country Club, have a “want” not a “need.” Their wealth provides them many options – they can renovate their current homes and age in place, they can hire additional help for burdensome yard work. They can also downsize within Woodbridge: one couple I know recently sold their large home and moved across town into a three bedroom ranch. There are dozens of smaller, one level homes currently on the market in Woodbridge that provide a viable option for those wishing to downsize within the town.
Frankly, I am much more concerned about the genuine needs of Woodbridge senior citizens of more modest means, living in average Woodbridge homes, which are only worth about $375,000 today. These neighbors cannot afford a half million dollar Toll Brothers condo. These neighbors are worried about paying their taxes and are fearful they will be forced to leave Woodbridge.
With an average age of 48, our town is one of the oldest in the area. The state average age is 40. Our town will be a more vibrant, diverse community if we attract more young people. In order to do so, we need to diversify our housing stock – to have small, moderately priced homes, located in a walkable neighborhood that will appeal both to older folks and to young professionals.
In May 2014, our Town Plan and Zoning Commission sponsored a talk by David Fink, a housing expert and the Policy Director at Partnership for Strong Communities, a Hartford non-profit. After studying Woodbridge’s demographics and currently available housing, he made a series of recommendations. According to Mr. Fink, over-55 housing in Connecticut is “overbuilt.” Rather than pursue this outdated type of development, Fink recommended that Woodbridge encourage the development of “smaller units close to the town center, near the doctor, the pharmacy, the church and other services.”
We have the perfect location for such housing in Woodbridge. We have an approved project called Woodbridge Village at the intersection of Bradley Road and Litchfield Turnpike, adjacent to shopping, medical facilities, and public transportation. Instead of radically changing our longstanding zoning regulations (a requirement of the Toll proposal for the Country Club) and selling our open space, I would like to see the town make an effort to work with the Woodbridge Village developer and get that project built. That project will fill a genuine need among longtime residents who wish to remain in town and will not require a zoning change. Even better, because it contains retail and office space in addition to residential, it will diversify our tax base and bolster our business district. This is the best way, long term, to meet the town’s fiscal needs without jeopardizing our longstanding zoning regulations, destroying a neighborhood, and threatening the rural character of our town.
By Selectman Maria Cruz Kayne