Listening to each other and working together works! That’s what the Board of Selectmen, the Board of Finance, the Woodbridge Board of Education and the Town’s various Departments did to come up with the fair and responsible budget that was presented by the Board of Finance at the Preliminary Budget Hearing on April 18th. At the hearing, no objections were raised as to any line item in the budget (other than the Amity School District budget, over which the Board of Finance has no jurisdiction). You can view the video of the hearing and the details of the preliminary budget on the Town website: https://www.woodbridgect.org/428/Annual-Budgets.
The bottom line: a 1.99% increase to the Town’s mill rate, which for the owner of an average priced home in Woodbridge equals an annual increase of about $240. This will be the budget recommended at the Annual Town Meeting on Monday, May 16th at 7:30PM, to be held in the Amity Hight School Auditorium, 25 Newton Road.
One question that did come up at the Hearing, though not directly related to any budget item, pertained to the State requirement that 10% of a town’s housing be affordable. “What if we don’t meet the requirement?” was the question. Many of us, of course, and as was pointed out by another speaker at the Preliminary Budget Hearing, believe that a more diverse housing stock and a more diverse community should be our goals, regardless of legal requirements. Still, it is a legitimate question to ask about the remedies for failure to act.
At the request of the Chair of the Board of Finance, Matt Giglietti, Town Counsel Gerald Weiner attended the April 21 Board of Finance meeting to answer that question. Attorney Weiner explained the consequences of failing to meet the goal of 10% affordable housing units, or alternatively of making legitimate, good faith efforts towards that goal. Here are a few take-aways from his presentation, which you can view on the WGATV79 YouTube link for “Finance 4/21/22” @ 28.02 minutes:
- In traditional land use appeals, in the event a town rejects a development application and the developer takes an appeal, it is the developer that must convince a judge that the town acted inappropriately. That is, the developer has the burden of proof;
- In the case of affordable housing development cases, however, in the event a town rejects that application, it is the town that must convince a judge that its denial of the application was appropriate. That is, the town has the burden of proof;
- “This shift in the burden of proof is significant and makes it much more difficult for a municipality to deny developers’ projects and, in effect, provides developers with an advantage in [affordable housing] cases over traditional zoning appeals;”
- In the event a town can demonstrate good faith efforts to increase the number of affordable units, the town can apply for a moratorium of the law for up to four years.
In Woodbridge, fewer than two percent of our housing units are considered affordable. We are among the lowest in the State. It has become clear over the years that there are deep divides in our Town about not only how to increase our affordable housing stock, but even as to whether we should try to do so.
Now is the time to listen to each other and work together to make Woodbridge an increasingly diverse and welcoming town.