Couples may hire a counsellor to help them navigate difficult situations in their lives, and the town is attempting a similar route in its effort to determine the best way forward for the former Country Club of Woodbridge property.
At its July 13 meeting, the Board of Selectmen, upon recommendation from its Strategic Planning group, voted to hire a consultant “who has experience in repurposing golf courses,” as stated in the motion by Selectman David Vogel. “In particular, we are looking for someone with experience in situations similar to ours.”
The town has been stuck ever since it purchased the 150-acre property in 2009 from the private golf club that went belly-up. Faced with rising taxes and a stagnant Grand List, town leaders have been eager to sell a portion of the property and gain some income from it. But many residents — neighbors in particular — raised staunch resistance to that idea, in the hopes that it can be used as a park.
The golf operation ceased after a few years, when the operator and the town could not agree who was responsible for necessary investments; the club house, with a leaking roof and single-pane windows, has been abandoned and boarded up. The last thing to close was the outdoor pool, which was a popular summer activity for many local families.
Several suggestions have been advanced over the years, including senior housing, a solar farm, a smaller golf operation, a banquet hall. About a year ago, a developer proposed to develop about a third of the property for housing, with a small affordable component. But the proposal was put on hold while the ad-hoc Affordable Housing study group was at work.
A survey conducted by Amity students a few years ago showed just how split the public is when it comes to the Country Club.
“Our hope is that the consultant will be helping the town to move forward and come to a consensus,” Vogel said. Vogel, a Republican, and Sheila McCreven, a Democrat, have been working in conjunction with Finance Director Anthony Genovese and former Assistant Administrative Officer Betsy Yagla to come up with a strategic plan for the town, formulating goals, and strategies to achieve them.
Picking the right candidate with the right credentials will be critical to the success of the endeavor, so as to “not poison the well with our own expectation,” Vogel said. “If we can really, truly, come out with a clean slate…we will have some firm footing on which to make some real solid decisions and lead the town in a direction that’s better for that property,” he said at the Selectmen’s meeting.
They are hoping to have a consultant identified by mid-September, and are hoping to see some recommendations by December, which can then be brought to the town at large for consideration.
McCreven said people have been asking her, “what’s next for the Country Club.” “We are hoping we’ll get to a place where the public can provide input, long before moving forward with any specific proposals.”
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent