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Letter: The Arbor Haven Development Makes No Financial Sense for Taxpayers

I’m concerned that the Board of Selectmen has not done basic due diligence on the proposed Arbor Haven development at the former Country Club of Woodbridge (CCW).  The First Selectman has promoted the project as a windfall to taxpayers, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Town officials have not questioned the developer’s inflated estimate of tax revenue to the town and the developer’s blatantly inaccurate assessment of educational costs that will result.  The developer’s financial analysis is riddled with errors and inappropriate assumptions.

Arbor Haven uses generic national averages to estimate the number of school age children who will be added to our school system if its subdivision is built.  Seeking data that is specific to Woodbridge, I surveyed the top Real Estate Brokers at the two largest real estate agencies in town.  The Brokers described their typical Woodbridge buyer as “someone seeking a home with a large yard for their kids to play in and to be in the Woodbridge school system.”  They all said that their typical Woodbridge home buyer on average has 2 young children.  We all know, based on our own neighborhoods, that most Woodbridge homebuyers are young families with school age children.  On one street near me, a third of the homes have been sold in the past two years, and all of the new families have at least two children.  It’s interesting to note that the developer originally estimated 153 students in their initial presentation, but after being told that our cost per student is much higher than their estimated cost, they simply reduced their estimated number of students by half seemingly to solve for their desired answer.

The cost to taxpayers will be over $3million in additional school costs for these new families.  Also omitted from Arbor Haven’s analysis are the costs for other town services such as police, fire, roads, etc. which, according to the Town Finance Director’s formula, will add at least $600,000 in annual expenses, bringing the costs up over $3.6million per year.  This number exceeds even the overly optimistic revenue estimates by Arbor Haven ($2.7million), guaranteeing a deficit to the Town of nearly $1million per year if this proposal is built.

A project that “grows” the grand list does not benefit taxpayers if the expenses exceed the tax revenue generated from the project.  This is similar to the conclusion that consultants Milone and MacBroom made in a study the Town of Woodbridge commissioned in 2014.  In that study they estimated that a smaller 65-unit residential development at the CCW would net the town a $554,000 deficit per year in 2014 dollars.  It is abundantly obvious the expenses to the town exceed the potential tax revenue and will increase the mill rate long term.  This development proposal only benefits the developer and not Woodbridge taxpayers.  I implore the Board of Selectmen to go back and do its due diligence on this project before wasting more taxpayers’ money promoting a bad idea.

Paul Harrigan CPA

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