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From the First Selectman 10/1/21

On Saturday, October 2, the Town’s ad hoc Diversity & Inclusion Committee is hosting “Woodbridge Like Me,” a celebration of the people, cultural and civic organizations that make Woodbridge what it is.

I thank the Diversity Committee for creating this event and providing a forum for Woodbridge residents to learn about this important issue.  According to Data Haven’s 2021 Woodbridge Equity Report, our Town has grown by about 100 residents since the 2010 census.  In the same time period, our Asian population has grown from 9% to 13% (compared to 5% total statewide); our Latino population grew from 3% to 6% (compared to 17% statewide), and our Black population grew from 2% to 3% (compared to 10% statewide).

The Library’s One Book One Town discussion, during the Woodbridge Like Me event, will focus on American Like Me:  Reflections on Life Between Cultures, which is a selection of essays edited by the actress America Ferrera.  The discussion will be led by a panel of local authors who have written on the topic of culture and race.  This promises to be a very interesting and informative discussion.

This event and book discussion, coupled with the Community Council’s new resident meet-ups, are critical steps in maintaining a dialogue on these important topics.  I welcome future recommendations from the committee and members of our community.

Speaking of new residents and change, the Town of Woodbridge has established a Housing Study Committee to address the State requirement that all municipalities have an Affordable Housing Plan in place by July 1, 2022.  The committee is also working with the South Central Regional Council of Governments, which is also creating a regional housing plan.  The document will include housing plans tailored to each municipality in the Council.  The plan will be assisted by a housing survey.  The survey is on the Town’s website and hard copies are available at the Town Hall, Human Services and Library.  The survey is open through October 15, 2021.

The Board of Selectmen has received two proposals from developers interested in purchasing the former Country Club of Woodbridge property.  Both proposals can be viewed on the Town website.  Arbor Haven was asked by the Board of Selectmen to hold a virtual public information forum on September 29 and the Board plans to hear from Eclipse Development, the other developer, at our regular October meeting.

The Arbor Haven proposal is to pay the Town $9 million for 100 acres and build approximately 140 homes – a mix of large single family homes, market-rate homes, affordable and age-restricted homes, all for purchase.  They also plan to demolish the clubhouse, create a Town pool, a park, walk/bike paths and rehabilitate the tennis and volleyball courts for town use.  Arbor Haven will make every effort to protect existing trees on the property.  Eclipse Development would pay the Town $1.5 million for 25 acres and proposed to build an expanded New England Brewing facility and construct approximately 100 rental apartments with an affordable component.

Please stay tuned as the Board continues to discuss the best use of this Town-owned land.  My hope for the 150-acre property is to find a way to pay off our remaining debt, address our State mandated housing requirements, and reserve some land for recreational use and/or possible solar.

The Board of Selectmen has also discussed the federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.  The Town is scheduled to receive a total of $2.6 million.  The funding must respond to a negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Our rough draft proposal to the Board of Selectmen is to install an HVAC system in the Center Building.  This building houses our emergency shelter, Senior Center, a daycare, Town offices, the fitness center and Police Department.  The Center Gym is also in that building and the gymnasium has many town uses, such as elections and referenda, major Town meetings, and many recreational and town-wide events.  Providing ventilation to this building is my first priority so that we can safely provide important resident services.  We are also interested in improving the Grove area with a covered pavilion to provide a sheltered outdoor programming space; improving and updating playgrounds and ballfields to encourage continued use of outdoor recreational opportunities; and marketing our business district and holding events there to bring in more folks to enjoy our beautiful town.

Unfortunately, because of the pandemic and lack of ventilation in the Center Gym we will not be able to hold our indoor annual Veterans’ Day Ceremony this year.  I am hopeful that we can hold an outdoor Memorial Day Ceremony next spring.

Our local organizations are getting creative to find fun and safe ways to celebrate Halloween this year.  On Saturday, October 9 the Library is hosting pumpkin decorating. In the business district, The Willows is holding a walk-thru of their decorated driveway on Friday, October 22 and Saturday, October 23 and several local businesses are hosting trick or treating on Saturday, October 23 from 11-1, followed by a free outdoor concert in the business district (1 pm at Coachman Square’s lawn).  For the second time during the pandemic the Woodbridge Volunteer Fire Association will hold its Truck or Treat as a drive-thru on Halloween.  Beecher Road School PTO’s Halloween Hoot will also be a drive-thru.  Visit the Town calendar (www.woodbridgect.org/calendar) for details on these and other events.

As you know, Verizon/Cellco is proposing to build a new cell tower in a residential neighborhood at a private residence at 118 Newton Road.  This is a private transaction between a neighbor and Verizon/Cellco, however the Town has worked with the neighborhood to try to prevent a cell tower from being built in ANY residential neighborhood in Town.  In September there was a crane test to verify Verizon/Cellco’s data at the height of the proposed tower on Newton Road and also at another site behind the Town’s Public Works facility.  The test was organized and paid for by the residents’ group opposing the proposed site.  I have attended three evidentiary hearings on behalf of the Town, and recently testified and answered questions from the CT Siting Council, and others, reiterating the Board of Selectmen’s position that we are in support of a cell tower for better service, but opposed to its location in any residential neighborhood.  We have offered several alternate sites to Verizon/Cellco.  The hearing regarding the cell tower has been continued to October 21.  We will keep you informed of any decisions!

As always, my door remains open to you.  If you need to reach me, please call 203-389-3401 or email me at bheller@woodbridgect.org.  Please stay safe!

—First Selectman Beth Heller

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