A recent letter by Robert Sharrer outlined four reasons why the author supports the sale of the former Country Club of Woodbridge (CCW) to Arbor Haven for a large housing development. Unfortunately, these claims just reflect the developer’s sales pitch.
Claim #1: The sale will avoid a tax increase. Not necessarily. A sale would provide a one-time cash payment, but we have no guarantee from the town for how that money would be used. In fact, during discussions of the last development proposal for the CCW, the Board of Finance contradicted the First Selectman’s promises and refused to guarantee that it would even use the money from a potential sale to pay off the CCW debt.
Claim #2: Tax revenue from new homes will exceed expenses. This claim relies on the developer’s assertions. Tax revenue from residential development does not necessarily exceed the expenses created by new homes. Can Mr. Sharrer cite independent studies of real-world examples? The town leaders commissioned a study from the independent consultants Milone & MacBroom, who concluded that the Toll Brothers proposal would produce a $500,000 annual deficit for the town. Any cash from a sale would quickly be eaten up by this annual deficit. (The Toll Brothers proposal was for a smaller development than Arbor Haven, but the results prove why Woodbridge needs a serious, independent study of the question.)
Claim #3: Affordable housing. This is an important goal. The Arbor Haven proposal, however consists mostly of high-priced homes and will do little to advance that goal. The town will reach its 10% affordable housing requirement more effectively if it finds a different developer whose focus is actually on affordable housing, not McMansions.
Claim #4: We already have enough open space. Woodbridge’s most compelling feature is that it is the only town in Connecticut that is adjacent to a city but has retained its rural atmosphere. It is essential to preserve this rural feeling if the town is to retain its appeal. Open space is a true public good that benefits everyone here in Woodbridge and in the larger community. If we are going to lose some of it, we need to make sure that doing so serves other important goals.
We favor either developing a smaller portion of CCW with truly affordable housing, or pursuing another use, such as a solar farm.