I have been a vocal opponent of development of the Country Club of Woodbridge golf course by Toll Brothers. I oppose it for several reasons.
First, most of us who live around the golf course and many others in town don’t want to see it developed for obvious reasons; we love the place. Most of us have lived here a long time; we golf there, walk our pets there and our kids go sledding on the sledding hill in the northwest corner of the course. While we don’t like the idea of development we also are concerned by the years of building, dust, dirt and noise that will take place before all the units are sold.
However, not all of the issues are about esthetics and recreation. One issue is money. Woodbridge needs it; our taxes are high. Part of that is due to rising costs and terrible decisions by the state government. However, the town’s government shares some responsibility for the current financial situation. They would like us to believe that the sale to Toll Brothers is the miracle cure for all financial ills. In fact the sale of the property is neither going to make the town’s financial issues go away nor significantly lower property owners’ taxes. The stewards of Woodbridge need to control spending; this is difficult to do; no one likes to tell groups of voters (especially a few months from an election) that the amount of money they are getting from the town is going to be reduced; no one likes to tell anyone that they are going to take something away from them. The town has been focusing on economic development in the business district, and, as one owning a business in town, I applaud Ms. Scalettar’s efforts to promote local businesses. However, the town needs to diligently curb overspending. Many are concerned that the focus on the sale of a single piece of town land will distract the town from addressing the true, long-term problems we face. Also, many citizens of the town have made suggestions on how to use the property at the golf course to make it more productive without selling it, but these ideas can’t gain traction while the sale of the property is being discussed.
There are environmental and zoning issues as well. Years ago, the Town, as required by law, notified the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection that a “significant environmental hazard” exists at the property involving pesticides in the soil and groundwater. Inexplicably, despite the presence of many residential drinking water wells surrounding the area, the Town did nothing for many years. Recently, there has been action, but only because residents spoke up. Future development, particularly if it involves excavation or blasting, could spread the contamination.
Then there is the zoning issue. The administration points to legal opinions that allow the Town’s first cluster housing development at the CCW does not mean that similar zoning changes are guaranteed to happen elsewhere in town. Even if true, there is no denying that establishing a precedent will make subsequent changes easier.
The administration is wedded to the concept of selling the property to Toll Brothers. Given all of the unresolved issues regarding this manner and the serious opposition to it which Ms. Scalettar acknowledges, you have to ask why. The reason must be political. A municipal election is coming up in the spring; incumbents have a better chance of winning when town finances are good. If the Toll Brothers proposal is passed, the administration will be able to say that they have added $5,000,000 to the treasury with the implication that all will benefit everyone. But it will serve only to mask temporarily significant long-term problems. It is time to have a vision and it is time to work together, we need to look at all of the issues which affect this town to make an even more desirable place to live than it already is. This will be difficult but it’s preferable to focusing on the sale of one piece of property as the answer to everything. There is no easy fix.