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Letter: What Happened to the “Pause”?  What’s The Rush?  Town Needs a Comprehensive Planning Process

Like many others, I am dismayed by the precipitous action of our Board of Selectmen (BOS) in ending, without notice, its stated intention to “pause” consideration of selling the Country Club of Woodbridge Property.

As reported in this publication on December 17, 2021, First Selectman Heller recently stated, “I believe it’s in the best interest of the town to hold off…with any proposal at this time,” she said.  She hopes that the right person will assist the Board of Selectmen to develop a comprehensive plan that residents can support.  “This is a proactive way for us to determine the future for our town.”

A few short weeks later, the promised “pause” was reversed without explanation, without the hiring of the “right person,” without the development of a comprehensive plan, without consideration by the Housing Opportunity Study Committee (which, presumably, was created to review proposals such as this), without referral to the 2030 Task Force (charged with brainstorming ways to diversify the Town’s grand list), and without inclusion in the recently begun Strategic Planning process.

By unhappy coincidence, the BOS decision to discard its prior pledges came immediately after it again became necessary to restrict public participation due to COVID resurgence.  It would be unfortunate if the BOS, in its apparent haste to make a deal, would push forward without the analysis it previously identified as necessary at a time when the public’s ability to hear and be heard on the largest development in the Town’s history is constrained by COVID.

This is to request that the BOS resume the pause and use the time to:

  1. Fulfill its pledge to obtain the advice of the “right person” or persons to guide us through these important issues. There seems to be considerable disagreement as to the revenues (e.g. taxes) and expenses (e.g. education, improvements and maintenance) associated with Arbor Haven and other developments.  This advisor should develop a “build-out analysis” reflecting the recent changes to the zoning regulations that now allow major residential development with unprecedented density in every neighborhood.
  2. Refer the matter to the 2021 Housing Committee. Otherwise, why have it?
  3. Fully consider other proposals for use of the property including the offer from the Woodbridge Land Trust and the Woodbridge Park Association to purchase a conservation restriction.

The BOS was wise in deferring consideration of the Arbor Haven proposal pending a reasoned evaluation of potential development of that and other properties in Town.  One wishes that they would stand by that pledge.

Thank you,

Al Smith

Al Smith is an environmental and municipal law attorney, born and raised, and still living in Woodbridge.  He has served as Town Attorney and Special Counsel for many Connecticut municipalities.  Al was Chair of Woodbridge’s Charter Revision Committee and has been a member of its Plan and Zoning Commission and Ethics Commission.

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