As we begin the new year, I have been reminded that our small town has come to a very important crossroad. The vote to sell approximately one-third of the former Country Club of Woodbridge for senior housing will eliminate our debt from the purchase of the land and bring in much needed ongoing tax revenue.
I believe there are two major reasons why this is so very important. The first is that we need to provide housing for older residents who would like to stay in Woodbridge, but do not want to or cannot maintain a large home. Secondly, we need to grow our grand list, which has been mostly stagnant for several years.
Selling a portion of the former Country Club of Woodbridge for development would provide us with up to 120 homes for residents 55 and over. Instead of moving out of Woodbridge to other towns with 55 and over (age-restricted) housing, residents will be able to remain in Woodbridge.
We need additional tax revenue to lower the tax burden for our residents. Selling a portion of the former Country Club of Woodbridge for development will provide us with an estimated additional $1.5M in yearly tax revenue, once all the units are sold.
Equally as important to increasing revenue is our continuous effort to reduce expenses. Even if we do not grant any budget increases to Town departments during this budget cycle, the mill rate will still increase because of the impact of our recent revaluation. Clearly it is time to act.
I believe that we cannot just ease our way out of this problem – we must be proactive, not reactive. We have consolidated many parts of our government and staff and will continue this important review. It should be noted that approximately 30 percent of our budget goes to the Amity Regional School district and the Town has no control over these expenses. Another approximately 30 percent of the budget goes to our exemplary Beecher School, which is one of our greatest assets.
We also must ensure that Woodbridge remains an attractive place for current and future residents and businesses. Lowering our tax burden is one way to be attractive, and offering meaningful programs and activities is another way.
The Town will continue to own approximately two-thirds of the former Country Club (approximately 95 acres). We could then create a beautiful park on the property with some of the additional monies from the sale. My vision is for a playground, sledding hill, gazebo/pavilion, walking trails, and a fishing pond. If we do not sell the property (for $5.4M) it will be difficult to convert the remaining land to a park or even properly maintain it.
Our town has limited options to raise revenue and approval of age-restricted housing will result in much-needed additional tax revenue. I strongly believe that taxpayers should have a say on whether senior housing is permitted at the former Country Club of Woodbridge at a referendum. This is one of the most important issues of our time, as we cannot and will not move forward unless a majority of our voters approve.
The draft agreement between the Town and Insite/Wernert will be available for public review at Town Hall prior to the vote. As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or comments about this or other issues.