After years of exploring development options for the Country Club of Woodbridge property, the town is redirecting its efforts into turning the 150-acre property into true open space. “At this point we are looking at converting it to open space,” said First Selectman Ellen Scalettar in a phone conversation after the October Board of Selectmen meeting. She said that Roland Betts, the New York developer, had withdrawn his proposal for Redan Preserve, which would have combined the Woodbridge Country Club property and the Yale golf course to develop two high-end golf courses into one destination. Betts now is looking to do the project in phases, starting with the Yale course. As of mid-October, the town had no confirmation that Betts, a Yale alumn, and the university had struck a deal.
The decision to end the golf operation comes as Billy Casper Golf (BCG), the golf operator, is winding down its operations. There will be a skeleton crew on site until the end of the year, Scalettar said, but no golf carts or other facilities are available. The three-year contract with the golf operator is in place until December 31, but Selectmen voted not to negotiate a new contract since the company wanted to revert to an older contract, which would have put the risk of potential losses on the town.
To create open space, the selectmen will have to decide on what to do with the existing facilities such as the large clubhouse, the outdoor pool, the cart paths and environmental remediation where chemical spills had occurred in the past. If they were to keep the pool going under the auspices of the Recreation Department, it would require $100,000 in repairs.
The cost of turning the property into open space could be between $1.5 to $2 million Scalettar said, and that’s without adding any new recreational facilities. She said the town could bond for that expense, which would allow the town to spread payments over a number of years in a planned fashion, as opposed to the unpredictable golf losses.
The town purchased the 155-acre property in 2009 with the overwhelming support of its residents. At the time it seemed that the looming insolvency of the Woodbridge Country Club might lure a large-scale developer. At the 2009 annual Town Meeting, those present voted 435-34 for the purchase. In addition to the golf course, the property came with a swimming pool, tennis courts and an ageing, 43,000 square foot club house, as well as several ancillary buildings. Toll Brothers has offered to purchase and develop a portion of the property into age-restricted housing, but that proposal was rejected by townspeople in a referendum in 2011.
“People need to understand that the golf course itself has no value because it needs so much repair and improvements,” Scalettar said. She said most recently a group of interested golfers had offered $700,000, not $4.5 million as some rumors had it, combined with partial development of the property.
“I think we have done our due diligence,” coming up with a solution in the best interest of the town, Scalettar said.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent