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Two New Country Club Proposals Do Not Include Golf

Two New Country Club Proposals Do Not Include Golf

The Woodbridge Board of Selectmen has set a date of Monday, December 17, for a public information session regarding two new proposals for the use of the Country Club of Woodbridge.  The two proposals are for active adult developments on about a third of the former golf course property, with the rest of the property being accessible as open space for the residents of the town, but with no golf.

The information session is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the Center Building gym, 4 Meetinghouse Lane.  The public will have a chance to ask questions.

One developer is Robert Sachs, his company now called Sunrise Hill Estates, who developed Fieldstone Village off Route 34 in Orange.  He tentatively called this proposed development Woodbridge Estates.  The other developer is Brian St. Pierre of Woodbridge, his company is called Insite Development.  He calls his proposal for the property Wood Valley Estates.  First Selectman Beth Heller said depending on the public’s reaction to the proposals, the board may decide to recommend one or the other proposal to a town meeting and ultimately to a referendum.

Since price negotiations between the town and the two developers were still ongoing as of early December, dollar amounts were not part of the public discussion when the developers made their pitch at the November 28 presentation.  Even so, the power point slide for Wood Valley Estates shows a proposed sale price of $5.3 million.  As for Sachs, he said that Woodbridge Estates, once fully built out, could bring in somewhere around $2 million in taxes annually.  Heller said she expects to have concrete figures in time for the informational meeting.

Woodbridge Estates:  At a special meeting of the Board of Selectmen on November 28, developer Robert Sachs pointed to Fieldstone Village – the active adult community he built across Route 34 on the border between Orange, Derby and Woodbridge — as an example of what he envisions for the Country Club of Woodbridge property.  The Woodbridge development would be somewhat smaller in terms of number of units, though spread out on more land.  It includes two roads, 125 age-restricted homes (20 fewer than in Orange), a clubhouse and pool, all on 54 acres of the roughly 150-acre property.

Sachs attended the selectmen’s meeting together with his brother, Greg Sachs, attorney Carl Porto and engineer Michael Ott.  “It’s a very upscale project,” Porto said.  Houses would be somewhat more spread out than they are in Orange, and offer features such as hardwood floors, vaulted ceilings and one-level living.  The pictures he showed as part of the power point presentation were taken from the Fieldstone project.  Prices would range from the mid-$400,000s and up.  “We anticipate a broad range [of styles],” he said.

Attorney Porto said the preferred location for the development is parallel to Ansonia Road, on an east-west axis, with an emergency egress to Johnson Road.  Another option would be to build fewer houses — 100 instead of 125 — and dedicate 3 or 4 acres to a 100-bed assisted living facility.

Their presentation also included a more vertical option running parallel to Woodfield Road.  The latter orientation, though farther from neighboring houses along Ansonia and Johnson roads, would require more blasting and more excavating and filling, due to the slope of the land, said engineer Michael Ott.  In addition, the vertical layout would encroach on a pond, and it might be problematic to meet wetlands standards.

Given the challenges of the vertical layout, both Porto and Ott said they recommend the east-west orientation, with the main entrance off Ansonia Road.  Ott said in drawing up the plans, he tried to stay away from the edge of the property and to lay out roads through the fairways in order to save trees and minimize cut and fill.  “This isn’t on top of anybody’s house,” he said in response to the first selectman’s concerns for the neighborhood.

Some 70% of the country club property will remain undisturbed, he said.  Together with the existing cart paths, which could easily be connected to form hiking trails, this would be a “very walkable development,” he said.  The location at the top of the hill would allow for beautiful views.  To sweeten the deal, the developer is willing to demolish the existing clubhouse and install a pool for the town at his expense, in addition to the pool dedicated to the development.

A rendering showing a horizontal vs a vertical layout, along with pictures of the Fieldstone development, is available on the town’s website, at http://www.woodbridgect.org/DocumentCenter/View/2166/Sachs_presentation_11-28-2018.

Wood Valley Estates:  Woodbridge resident Brian St. Pierre, owner of Insite Development Group, who has been in negotiations with the town for several months, came back to present a revised plan, along with business partner Phil DiGennaro of Sound Development.  Instead of a golf course — which had been part of their original proposal — they offered to work with the town to develop a 90+ acre town park with a fishing pond and picnic areas.

Their development proposal is for 120 detached, age-restricted homes on 55-60 acres, with units selling in the high $400,000s and up, depending on size and customization.  The development would have a club house for residents with tennis courts, fitness center, meeting room and small pool.  St. Pierre offers to demolish the old clubhouse and to renovate the existing country club pool for the town’s use, and building a small club house with changing rooms and lockers.

The main road of Wood Valley Estates runs parallel to Woodfield Road, but is set back from the road.  He agreed with Robert Sachs that building on the east side of the property may present challenges, but said it has the least impact visually.  “This to us feels like is the right spot for this development,” he said.  He would use the existing tennis courts and refurbish them for tennis and pickleball.  Walking paths would tie in with the new town park, he said.

St. Pierre said he walked through the old clubhouse last month and found its state very deteriorated compared to a previous walk-through two years ago.  “It’s beyond repair and it really needs to go at this point,” he said.

The tax revenue on the project would be $1.67 million dollars based on today’s mill rate, St. Pierre predicted.  He expects the construction to generate some $500,000 in building permits and fees.

Talking as a Woodbridge resident, St. Pierre said the project would help stabilize taxes and improve the overall condition of the property, especially since the golf operation ceased some two years ago.  “Cleaning it up and making it look good again is top priority,” he said.  Plus, “we’ll get our public pool back.”

“I think we can all agree that the best and final use for this property is a 55-and-over community,” St. Pierre said, adding that based on the town’s demographics, a mixture of open space and 55-and-over is the way to go.

The powerpoint presentation for this project is also available on the town’s website at http://www.woodbridgect.org/DocumentCenter/View/2167/Insite_presentation_11-28-2018.

By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town New Correspondent

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