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Letter: CCW Proposals “Half-Baked” at Best

Having studied the two proposals for development of the former Country Club of Woodbridge property, I would deem them “half baked,” at best.  Neither one of the proposals provide a complete solution for the entire property, and neither produce a material financial impact for anyone in the town of Woodbridge.  While I strongly believe there is a solution to the future of this property, these proposals are NOT IT.

First, the property would have to be rezoned to allow for development of homes under the 1.5-acre requirement for new homes in Woodbridge – a regulation that protects Woodbridge as we know it.  While I have heard claims that the zoning can be crafted to only apply to the CCW property, this is questionable at best.  Zoning is based on precedent, and once a new precedent is established here, there are absolutely no guarantees that further zoning changes will not occur.

Then there is the matter of the companies that seek to be involved.  The proposals come from two businesses that have questionable backgrounds.  I invite the Board of Selectmen to inquire as to whether Insite Development has ever attempted a project of this scale – my research finds that this would be the biggest project (by far) that this firm will have ever undertaken.  Do we want to gamble with the future of our home town with an unproven, unknown builder, who is literally learning on the job?  As the recently received Constructability report points out, this project presents traffic, drainage, and unknown wetlands impact challenges, in addition to building additional water, electrical, and sewer capacity.

What about the other group, “Sunrise Development Group”?  This business is owned by Robert Sachs.  Mr. Sachs owns Cherry Hill Construction, which a quick Google search reveals was barred from doing any business with the Federal government in 2015 after pleading guilty to filing false tax returns and falsifying certified payrolls on Federal projects, among other things.  Mr. Sachs’ previous project was Fieldstone Village in Orange.  This project was started in 2008 – and still continues construction today, a full 11 years later!  Despite having the benefit of the longest period of economic growth (2009 to present) since World War II, Fieldstone Village has not been able to sell through completely.  What can we reasonably expect the sales to be for either one of these projects?  Neither one of the companies provide firm completion dates, because the simple fact is they themselves cannot predict success on this front – that means weighing the distinct possibility of a half-finished construction zone for the next 15-20 years, smack-dab in the middle of our community.

Finally, in speaking with many of my neighbors, I find that many are under the impression that proceeds from the sale of the former CCW property would have a dramatic impact in reducing the mill rate (currently 39.83).  The reality is this is simply not true.  According to the Official Woodbridge 2019 Budget, the average yearly debt service for the CCW property is $470,203.  This works out to $53 per capita, per year.  Yes, just over the cost of a tank of gas per person in Woodbridge.

My family is new to Woodbridge, having moved here in 2017 with a newborn.  We chose to purchase a home in Woodbridge because it seemed to be everything a new family would want – beautiful green spaces, a community of accomplished neighbors, and a school system among the very best in the state.  We moved here knowing full well of the mill rate that helps to pay for the community we all love.  While I certainly do not presume to speak on behalf of everyone in our wonderful town, I can absolutely speak on behalf of my own household and my neighbors – we will GLADLY pay $53/person for the next 7 years so my daughter, and everyone in Woodbridge, can enjoy that beautiful, historic property.  We should work to find a great solution for that property that protects and preserves Woodbridge, not just settle for whatever half-baked proposal we happen to get.

Javier Aviles

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