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Letter: Why Your Taxes Won’t Fall If Development Goes Forward

Sometime in the near future you may be asked to vote up or down the sale of 60 acres of the old CCW for development.  The reason put forth is money, $5.4 million to pay off the debt and create a new revenue stream of $1.7 million in taxes.  That’s not the whole story, it leaves out essential facts to bolster the argument for sale.

First, the sale will generate $5.4 million, but $4.2 million will go to pay off the debt.  Remediation will cost an estimated $800K, leaving about $400K net.  Curiously, Ellen Scalletar, hand-picked by the First Selectman for the Board of Finance, remarked at their last BOF meeting that that money would not have to be used to pay off that debt.  What are the administration’s plans for that money?

The tax stream will take years to reach $1.7 million as the homes will be built in stages over five years, according to developer’s projections.  But at $250/square foot, and Woodbridge homes selling at $155 a square foot, has the market been misjudged?  How long will it really take to build out and sell?  What happens if the developer cannot complete the project because of poor sales?  Our Town Attorney wants to have right of first refusal to buy back the property.  Does the Town really want to be in the real estate business?  Where would the buy-back cash come from – another bond issue?

Furthermore, an estimated 30% of the golf course homes will be sold to Woodbridge residents, freeing up 40 resale homes to families with school children.  Each child costs the school system at least $17K to educate, most homes will have 2 children, or 80 children for a total of $1.36 million.  So, $1.7 less $1.36 nets $340K.  Furthermore, there are $6.4 million in capital projects in the pipeline, plus another $6.7M wanted by the Amity School district.  These numbers don’t look good for lower taxes.

What will be the effect on the resale market?  Adding homes to the market will increase supply which typically lowers prices.  The Woodbridge market is already depressed, especially in the $500K to $600K range where houses are languishing on the market, or selling at prices below market value.  These lowered prices will generate less tax money, and will also help push up the mill rate, since taxes equal valuation times mill rate.

Finally, the First Selectman announced at the October Board of Selectmen meeting that there would be no conservation easement on the remaining 100 acres, because it would interfere with a skating rink, dog park, or other recreation use.  Conservation easements are designed to prevent sub division and development; exceptions can be carved out for recreation, and we have such properties in Woodbridge.  It is more likely that further sales are contemplated and a conservation easement would prevent that.

So, think carefully how you vote; you’re not voting for lower taxes.

David A Lober , M.D.

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