“A mess of pottage is something immediately attractive but of little value taken foolishly and carelessly in exchange for something more distant and perhaps less tangible but immensely more valuable. The phrase alludes to Esau’s sale of his birthright for a meal of lentil stew (“pottage”) in Genesis 25:29–34 and connotes “shortsightedness and misplaced priorities” (Wikipedia). We seem to be experiencing this once again in Woodbridge with the latest Toll Brothers proposal to build 80 houses on the Country Club of Woodbridge Golf course. This is like the zombie developer; killed by the Woodbridge voters in a decisive town vote, it remains undead. The administration might characterize it as a phoenix rising from the ashes, but only a zombie sucks life from the living.
The latest proposal was alluded to by the First Selectman at a special Board of Selectmen meeting called on June 22, on 24 hours notice. There was no written proposal. Toll wanted 42 acres, at a proposed price of $5 million dollars, and Ellen predicted an income of $600k annually in taxes. Sounds like a lot of money, and it would be, if the First Selectman didn’t have plans to pay off the country club bond to immediately borrow more money for a new police station, firehouses garage, firehouse renovation, and who knows what else. Net savings to you: zero.
Then there is the saving of the $400k annual debt service and the aforementioned $600k a year in taxes. The taxes would only amount to that much after the seven year build out is completed. My preliminary evaluation shows that with our $42M budget, $1m of revenue would amount to a savings of 2.5% on your tax bill. That’s $250 off your $10,000 tax bill, or $ 20 a month. Hardly an amount to break a budget.
If the Town had the will, it could make money from the Golf course. It has systematically dragged its feet in developing a business plan. It has let the clubhouse, a source of revenue as well as a valuable building for use by town departments, fall further into disrepair. A restaurant at the club could increase revenues for the course by 30 – 35 percent. The most frequent requests from out-of-town users, who pay full price and subsidize Woodbridge golfers, is to have a place to have lunch and a drink. The Town has worked out contracts in the past where it paid Billy Casper Golf to manage the club. Any decent negotiator would have had the management pay the town a fee.
The town has worked out the details of a new contract with the golf management company, but won’t sign until July. Meanwhile, almost a quarter of the club’s revenue stream, golf outings for charities and institutions have been put on hold for 2017. No one wants to commit to booking outings if the course won’t be open next year. The town has inflated the projected costs for the club to make it seem less appealing. ONE MILLION DOLLARS for a new irrigation system that course management says they don’t need. THREE MILLION DOLLARS in capital expenditures (over the next three, five, ten years, it varies with each telling) most of which goes to clubhouse repairs. Herb Newman, the architect for the clubhouse, was kind enough to submit a detailed plan and cost analysis, which you can view on the town website, and it costs much less than described to preserve and renovate the clubhouse: make it safe and ADA compliant: $600k. Tear it down: $500k. See the report on the town website under Future for CCW.
Ms. Scallettar says it is her job to watch out for the town finances. It is only one of her jobs. She is also responsible for the general welfare and safety of the town through direct actions, appointments and oversight. She is concerned about property values. So are we. The uniqueness of having a town Golf Course is a big plus for property values. Overcrowding, construction disruptions and loss of open space decrease property values in both the long and short term.
An over 55 community on the Golf Course would be another valid argument for the Bradley Road project to be turned into non-age restricted rental.
Don’t be sweet talked by the rosy picture Ellen paints. Do your homework and get your facts. In my personal dealings with her my own collected facts and figures have been disputed, distorted, and denied. Please don’t spit in my face and tell me that it is raining. I don’t know what her real agenda is, and probably never will, but at the BOS she packed the room with BOF members who equated Toll Brothers with the Second Coming, despite a large, well documented litany of complaints by both dissatisfied purchasers, and besieged towns. Google Toll Brothers complaints. Do it. Don’t be spoon fed lies and platitudes. Use those critical rethinking skills before our town looks nothing like it did when you chose to live here.
But back to the pottage. Simple fact, with the exception of the Chinese, they are not making any more land. And they are not making more land like the Golf Course. Go see it sometime. It is lush, green and gorgeous. Want to sell that for a bowl of lentils?