Both statewide and locally, our COVID-19 positivity rate unfortunately increased significantly just before Thanksgiving. Sadly, the pandemic is not over. I would remind everyone to please take advantage of the widespread availability of FREE vaccines, boosters, and tests to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to keep yourself and our community safe. To find a vaccine or testing site, visit portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus. As a result of the high positivity rate. we are, unfortunately, back to holding meetings virtually.
Now that we are in our budget season, I will continue to remind everyone that education takes up approximately two-thirds of the Town’s annual operating budget. As the school districts’ budgets continue to increase without a corresponding increase in the Town’s grand list, the Town may be forced to reduce services and/or raise taxes. It will be up to the Boards of Finance and Selectmen to make these hard choices.
Please remember that ALL RESIDENTS have a voice in the budget process. We have already had two Capital Budget presentations in early December. Operating Budget presentations will begin in late January and February to the Boards of Finance and Selectmen, and then discussions will ensue. Residents are encouraged to ask budget questions or make suggestions to boards and commissions, or department heads. Budget meetings can be watched live on Channel 79, Webex and the WGATV YouTube page – links to the meetings are in the meeting agenda notice. Videos of meetings that have occurred can be found as recorded written minutes on the Town website, and also on YouTube. You may have noticed that cable channel 79 (where WGATV is broadcast) was not working. I was informed by the cable company that there was a “fiber break” which affected the “Milford hub” and “the fiber team is working on the repair.” As of this writing, the issue has been resolved.
Another video I suggest watching, if you missed the meeting, is the Housing Opportunity Study Committee’s informational session, which took place December 6 and was led by housing policy expert David Fink. Mr. Fink provided background on the Town’s housing planning process, shared housing best practices, and engaged residents to hear their views about housing. The committee is working to draft the Town’s Affordable Housing Plan which will be recommended to the Board of Selectmen this spring, so that we may address the State’s requirements related to developing our local affordable housing plan, as required by state statute § 8-30j.
At the December Board of Selectmen meeting the Board heard from the Woodbridge Land Trust and Woodbridge Parks Association who together sent a letter of offer to purchase a conservation easement on 140 of the 150 acres at the former Country Club of Woodbridge for $250,000. I shared my view at the meeting that I am opposed to this idea for a few reasons: it ties up forever approximately 140 acres of land with access to sewer and water, and the $250,000 proposed purchase price is less that one year’s payment on the Town’s remaining debt on this property. Currently we pay approximately $430,000 annually toward reducing the debt, and we still have about 10 more years before it is paid off. Additionally, we also have a pending offer from developers Arbor Haven to purchase and develop 100 of the 150 acres for $9 million dollars.
The issue of how best to use this property (the former Country Club of Woodbridge) is controversial. While we contemplate the future of the former CCW, we are faced with a stagnant grand list, and at the same time we are required by the State to submit a housing plan for the Town by June 2022. I’m sure everyone is aware of the need for diverse housing options in Woodbridge, and we also need senior (over 55) housing, so residents can downsize locally. In addition, there are some folks who want to preserve some or all of the former CCW land. There are plenty of other ideas as well, including business, solar, and recreational opportunities.
I proposed, and the Board agreed, to put a short hold on the proposals and retain the services of a consultant who would assist us in creating a plan for the property. This plan may be able to include several of these ideas. We are also exploring a plan for the business district. At future Board meetings I expect to discuss the hiring of a consultant to guide us through a review of these issues and ideas for the former CCW and recommend to the Board of Selectmen how to proceed in a way that’s in the best interest of the Town and its residents.
Also at that meeting, we discussed another proactive step I would like the Board of Selectmen to take to create an overall strategic plan for the Board of Selectmen. This plan would include a mission statement for the Town and a number of goals that the Board would focus on over the next year or two, including resolving the CCW use. This strategic planning initiative will help guide and focus our work so we are better able to serve our residents.
As we close 2021, I am reminded that the end of the year is a time for remembrance. Let’s be indeed thankful that we have all made it together through this trying year, and now look to the future with hope that better days are ahead. I wish you all a happy and safe holiday season, and may your new year be filled with love and friendship. Happy Holidays!
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions or comments. I can be reached at 203-389-3401 or firstname.lastname@example.org.