In the Woodbridge Town News edition of November 16, 2018 appeared a letter by me titled “Country Club of Woodbridge – What Are Our Selectmen Doing?” Most all of what I wrote about at that time is still true today with the misguided potential supported by the First Selectman, the town attorney and other Selectmen to develop the priceless open space at the Country Club of Woodbridge. I have also written about this being a recurring nightmare.
At the time, in the “Woodbridge News and Events” for November 2018 under November Planning and Updates, First Selectman Beth Heller wrote about the Former Country Club Property. She advised then that the Selectmen had received a new proposal for the former Country Club of Woodbridge (CCW) from the developer of Fieldstone Village of Orange. Now it is a new, unsolicited proposal from new developers interested in building approximately 145 homes on the property being touted by our First Selectman. If this were to go through it will create enormous challenges for our schools and town services in the years to come.
What follows is exactly what I wrote three years ago:
“Simply stated, we need leadership from our town leaders. It appears the Selectmen are awaiting anyone to send a proposal in to them as to what to do with the former CCW property. This is not leadership; this is management by incoming letter.
“I am on record in a previous Letter to the Editor, apparently ignored by our Selectmen, for the preservation of the open space of this very historically significant “crown jewel” property. Any zoning change for this property will have enormous follow-on consequences for other properties in town and bring in housing much more clustered than our present 1½ acre zoning that our town leaders have had the vision to include in our residential zoning regulations for many years. It is due to this that Woodbridge, although significantly developed, has retained its unique character.
“I informed townspeople about the history of the property deeds for the former CCW and the history of this property. One-time owners included Captain John Beecher and Patriot & Statesman Roger Sherman. The Roger Sherman connection to the CCW property is that he owned that property as Clover Hill Farm during the time he served as mayor of New Haven.
“If you do not know who Roger Sherman was, or if you are not aware of the historical significance, I suggest you do your own assessment. It is easy, start with: http://www.townhistory.org/clover-hill-farm/. USA Founding Father Roger Sherman lived from 1721 to 1793 and is the only person to have signed all papers of independence of the United States: the Continental Association, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. He was an influential member of the Constitutional Convention and a true statesman. In 1784, he was the first mayor of New Haven.
“The former CCW property owner prior to Roger Sherman was Captain John Beecher, and his family’s presence on this property prior to the incorporation of the Town of Woodbridge takes us back as far as the founding of New Haven and the original Beecher family in America. (Think Beecher Road). If you don’t know of Captain John Beecher, he was an ancestor of Lyman Beecher and his daughter Harriet Beecher Stowe — and her siblings. The former CCW property was also owned at one time by James Hillhouse; there is so much more about these families in books and references on Woodbridge history.
We have a very unique opportunity to save this property as was envisioned when the town purchased it and decisions made now will have for-ever consequences. Please recognize the history of this property, I argue it is the most historically significant location in our town.”
I continue to strongly recommend maintaining the open space of the former golf course, when developed, it will be gone for the public good and historical purposes forever. An RFP process should be constructed that invites proposals for:
- Renovation/replacement of the country club catering/banquet facility for operation as a for-profit property tax-paying venture;
- Renovation/replacement of the pool for townspeople summer use, there is no other outdoor town owned pool;
- Create an open space/conservation easement or farmland preservation grant to guarantee operation of the former golf course as a farm; we need more local farms; or just provide for public access and outdoor enjoyment; and
- Alternatively consider working with our legislators to create a state park for this parcel to teach our children about history!
As we know, town leaders have had issues managing the golf course facility under contract to an operating firm. Town leaders proved that they were unable to manage the golf course either by itself or under contract to a provider. We must preserve this critical parcel of open space; it is one of the most important opportunities we have at this time to leave a legacy to generations of townspeople to come.
Richard J. Forselius