To the Editor:
Since I became First Selectman, we have made good progress in managing the operational costs at the Country Club of Woodbridge. In fact, this year golf operations turned a profit, a portion of which will be returned to the Town. The determination of the future uses of the CCW property, however, remains one of the most important and controversial issues facing our Town. In light of the anonymous, inflammatory accusations that I understand have been circulated about the process that I have laid out, I thought it important to review the facts.
Over the past year or so, the topic of the CCW has been on the agenda of nearly a dozen public meetings. While some residents oppose any development or change at the property, the general consensus has been for active adult (over 55) housing, preservation of open space (golf or otherwise), and a plan that is financially beneficial to the Town.
We issued a request for proposals (RFP) from the private sector to which we received two responses that have been reviewed by the ad hoc CCW committee. The Committee is made up of 7 Town residents representing a range of backgrounds and views. On December 3rd, the ad hoc committee made its recommendations to the Board of Selectmen.
Thus far, I have had the proposals treated as confidential. This is pursuant to the recognition in the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act that it may be in a Town’s best interest to treat responses to requests for proposals as temporarily confidential when the public interest in confidentiality outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Temporary confidentiality strengthens the Town’s negotiating position, prevents outside publicity from affecting the negotiations, and keeps the discussions with each respondent confidential from the other.
In the case of the Country Club of Woodbridge RFP, I made the determination that confidentiality is in the best interests of the Town during the period when the ad hoc CCW Committee reviewed the responses and reported to the Board of Selectmen. I have further concluded that confidentiality should continue while the Selectmen receive the ad hoc Committee’s report and conduct their preliminary review of the proposals submitted in response to the RFP.
Additionally, the Freedom of Information Act recognizes the propriety of confidential negotiations and deliberations where the sale of real estate by the Town is being considered and publicity could adversely affect the price received by the Town. Under this provision as well, I have determined that the best interests of all Woodbridge residents are served by confidentiality at this time.
Of course, all original responses and any subsequent submissions will be available to the public well before any town meeting or referendum on the subject. There is nothing “secret” about what is taking place – it is rather a period of confidentiality that is in keeping with both the letter and the spirit of our Freedom of Information Act.
While some may be impatient, I am committed to a thoughtful, deliberative and transparent process that best serves the interests of our residents. Undue haste does not serve us well. I want to assure all Town residents that it is my intention to make all materials publicly available at the earliest time that is consistent with achieving the best results for our Town. And I want to remind all Town residents that the ultimate decision on what happens to the property rests with them; town residents will vote on a proposal, if any, that is recommended by the Board of Selectmen.
On a matter of this importance, there are of course differences of opinion. I would hope, though, that in a small town like ours, those differences would be aired with decorum and respect. As always, I welcome the input of our Town residents who can reach me by phone (203-389-3401) or at Town Hall.
Town of Woodbridge