The November meeting of the Woodbridge Board of Selectmen (BOS) was a stark contest between “We the People” and the powers that be. Town Attorney Jerry Weiner and First Selectman Beth Heller did their best to dodge incoming fire, but they were largely unsuccessful. At issue was the dispute at the Thomas Darling House, where the Administration has wrested control from the Amity Woodbridge Historical Society, volunteers caring for the property on behalf of the Town for the past 45 years, in an effort to protect the farmer’s ability to continue living in the caretaker’s apartment on the property. The AWHS has requested he be removed.
The latest Town proposal in the continuing saga is to convert a portion of the antique barn into a “Farmer’s Shelter” at the expense of the AWHS, with modern facilities of running water and electricity, so the farmer will have a place to eat lunch and get out of the elements. Needless to say most of the criticism came from members of the AWHS, who were outraged that they should be asked, as a non-profit, to support a for profit farm, a farm which is leased from the town for $10 a year! When the Town Attorney stated that this compromise had been suggested by the lawyer representing the AWHS, the president rose up to say that it was an extreme measure and last-ditch attempt to get agreement from the Administration, nothing that they voluntarily supported. It was essentially a hostage videotape, with the gun off camera. The past president also noted that it would destroy the 17th century authenticity of the property. Another speaker opined that it is more important to support the volunteers who are the life blood of this town, including the AWHS, rather than bending over backwards to subsidize housing for a for profit farm operation.
On another note, the BOS voted on a plan to hire a land use consultant to study and suggest other uses for the 90 acres of the CCW property which will remain in Town ownership in the event that the referendum should somehow pass and the Town sells 60 acres for cluster home construction. That begs the question, why have we not hired a consultant in the past? It was suggested 6 years ago by Selectmen Dey and Anastasio. Why do we first have to sell the property to do this? Wouldn’t it make more sense to get the suggestions BEFORE we sell the property, change zoning, deal with construction, runoff and possible blasting and disruption to the neighborhood, not to mention irreversible loss of the largest undeveloped parcel in Woodbridge?
It was refreshing to hear the intelligent, insightful, and cogent remarks of so many volunteers and residents. I would hope that the same thoughtful consideration of these issues be done by those responsible for running our town.
David Lober MD