Last week’s news covered the February 27th Town Plan & Zoning (TPZ) public information session on the Draft Revisions to the Zoning Regulations for the Town of Woodbridge prepared by Planning Consultant Leslie Creane, which I also attended. For those of you who missed the meeting and the story, the TPZ presented proposed zoning changes to the areas south of route 63 and 67, some explanation was given as to the need for updated/clarified language, attendees were shown a presentation from the planning consultant, and the floor was opened for comments from town resident attendees. These proposed changes, apparently as a response to the three preference surveys conducted by the town June-August 2016, claim to address the desire of many in town to create a more central area with shopping/retail selection and increase revenue from taxes. But even before that survey was conducted, the town had stated a long-term goal to “create a vibrant mixed-use area with commercial and residential uses” and the surveys were strongly skewed to that end. As the Woodbridge Town News reported in January 13, 2016 “the town last year  budgeted $10,000 to hire a part-time town planner. The commission has talked to Hamden Town Planner Leslie Creane to take on that project.” The planner helped to create those surveys and similar or the same images used in those surveys were also used in Creane’s presentation at the 2/27 session. The proposed zoning changes can be viewed on the TPZ site (https://www.woodbridgect.org/448/Zoning-Regulation-Updates).
Based on the feedback from residents’ comments at the meeting, adding more commercial spaces and residences (age-restricted or otherwise) is controversial and hotly contested. While the open meeting was not intended for rebuttal by the TPZ and so no real opportunity was given them to address this concern, it isn’t clear whether real data exists to support the idea that increasing commercial and residential housing in this section of Woodbridge would be a substantial enough increase in tax revenue in such a way that it would offset any strains on existing town resources (school, police, fire, senior, library, etc.); nor to address any expensive resolutions to the problem of traffic in the affected area (specifically before the on/off ramps to the Merritt Parkway), which in its present state is a deterrent to businesses and residents alike. Further, would the (potential) gains be worth the impact that development would have on the residents of this neighborhood? I point now to one of the two functions with which TPZ is charged “…the Zoning’ function of the Commission in turn guides and regulates the development of the town by updating and administering the Zoning Regulations with the goal of preserving the character and integrity of the community.” What about loyalty to the town that these new residents would have who, whether they be young professionals, or “55+”, have not seen the benefits of (and therefore may not be inclined to put tax dollars toward) our schools and invest in other town resources? Further, adding more commercial spaces seems unnecessary because there is not currently a demand (as evidenced by an abundance of vacant commercial spaces already in the area).
Rather than discuss, propose, or even consider changes to the zoning that would make it possible to expand commercial and add more residential spaces why don’t we refocus our energy and intensify efforts to find and attract the type of small businesses and good-neighbor retailers we desire to fill the existing, and numerously vacant commercial spaces we already have?