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Letter: Do The Math: Arbor Haven Proposal Will Produce Large Financial Loss for The Town

Real estate developer Arbor Haven has proposed to purchase 100 acres of the former Country Club of Woodbridge property from the town to build a massive 145-unit housing development.  Arbor Haven’s sales pitch to the town rests on its claim that the town will realize a financial profit from the yearly tax revenue generated by the new homes.

A cursory examination of the numbers reveals that Arbor Haven is presenting faulty math:  it turns out that the Arbor Haven proposal will actually produce a LARGE NET LOSS for the town.

The first version of the proposal, presented to the selectmen in August, based its income calculations on inaccurate estimates of school cost.  Arbor Haven projected that its development would add an additional 153 students to Woodbridge schools at a cost of $12,000 per student per year.  Of course, we all know that Woodbridge spends closer to $20,000 per student per year (a figure confirmed by the town’s finance director at the 9/8/21 selectmen’s meeting).

When Arbor Haven was informed of the actual school expense, it came back with a revised proposal for the September 29th information session.  The per-student annual cost was revised upward to a more realistic $17,500, but oddly, the number of students had magically shrunk by half.  Presto change-o!  This maneuver would be insulting if it wasn’t so comically transparent – how stupid does Arbor Haven think we are?  The original student estimate combined with the real cost per student yields a whopping annual expense to the town of $2,677,500.

In addition to vastly undercounting the number of schoolchildren the development would produce, Arbor Haven neglected to account for the additional cost of adding adult residents to the town.  The standard multiplier used to calculate these costs (used by the town’s finance director to evaluate prior development proposals) is $2,000 per resident per year.  This covers costs like police, fire, library, roads, and general overhead.  So, if this development adds about 300 new adult residents to the town, they will create $600,000 per year in new expenses bringing the total expense of the development to $3,277,500 per year.  Since the projected tax revenue is $2,733,000 the town ends up with more than a half-million-dollar deficit every year.

Residential growth creates profits for developers – it has never been, and will never be, financially beneficial to any town.  Instead of chasing this fool’s gold, the First Selectman should put her energies into growing our business sector, bringing in the type of taxpayers who actually create a net gain on the bottom line.

Cathy Wick

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