By Bettina Thiel
Toll Brothers, the developer whose proposal to develop a 17-acre parcel of the Country Club of Woodbridge was soundly defeated two years ago in a referendum, has returned to submit another, much bigger proposal. This bigger development would also generate a lot more money, 6.5 million dollars for the purchase of 70 acres; it could also generate up to $2 million in tax revenue.
That was one reason for the ad hoc committee, which reviewed the proposals, to recommend the Toll Bros proposal to the selectmen. The committee felt the 6.5 million would pay down the debt the town took on, restore money to the fund balance, build a new clubhouse and tear down the old one, yet retain approximately half of the property as open space.
Three Toll Brothers representatives made a public presentation at a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen on January 20, after a second, much smaller proposal, submitted by the Jonathan Rose Co., had been withdrawn. The proposal is for 96 age-restricted attached townhomes and 74 age-restricted detached homes, laid out on 70 acres. In the center a clubhouse and pool would be built just for residents of the development. The town could decide whether or not it wants to retain a nine-hole golf course or provide for walking trails instead.
The plan honors the commitment to open space, maximizes the town’s return and provides housing for older residents, said one of the company representatives at the presentation. He said the attached “carriage” homes would come in smaller or larger units, with larger units ranging in price from the lower $400,000 to the low $500,000; smaller units ranging from the mid $300,000 to mid-$400,000. Detached homes could range from mid $440,000 to mid $500,000. All units would feature a first floor bedroom.
The company hires most sub-contractors from Connecticut. The roads connecting the development would be privately owned and maintained; the entry would be from Ansonia Road. An emergency exit would be provided on Johnson Road.
The projection is to build about 25 units per year, drawing as many as a third of the residents from Woodbirdge, a third from surrounding towns and the rest from elsewhere, including people who have children in the area. In return, Toll Brothers would pay the town $6.5million in cash, right at closing. It would also take care of the construction of the golf course, should the town want that; would demolish the existing clubhouse and construct a smaller building to house a small pro-shop and restroom.
Jonathan Rose proposal: The second proposal, by Jonathan Rose Co., envisioned a somewhat smaller development of age-restricted rental units, which would be managed by the Watermark Retirement Communities. It offered to pay the town 1.75 million for 11 acres, with an additional ten acre option for 20 “cottages”. The estimated tax income, once fully built out, was $600,000 as opposed to the $2 million from the Toll Brothers project.
The Rose Co. project envisioned re-opening the existing clubhouse “as a premiere town amenity” with a year-round café open to the public; a senior wellness center, pro shop and locker room as well as outdoor pool, as written in its proposal. It also would turn the golf operation into a nine-hole course with a driving range and educational facilities. This proposal also includes a dog park, community garden, walking trails and a scenic overlook in the center of the property.
However, the Rose Co. withdrew its proposal. In a brief press release, project manager David McCarthy said, “due to competing demands on our time we could not commit to pursuing the development project at this time”.
The Toll Brothers proposal will now be forwarded to several of the town’s commissions for thorough examination, Scalettar said, namely the Conservation Commission, the Country Club of Woodbridge Commission, The Commission of Publicly Owned Properties, Recreation and Human Services. She expects the chairpersons of these groups to invite Toll brothers to make its case, and for the public to listen to the plans.
Scalettar said she would also be setting up a schedule of public meetings. “I don’t want to hear that anybody was deprived of the opportunity to hear what this proposal is all about,” she said. There will be plenty of opportunity for the public to ask questions before the issue will be referred to referendum.