Missing the Big Picture and the Small Picture
The TPZ continues its ongoing, critically important review of the Open Communities Trust application that would, if approved, fundamentally change the zoning in Woodbridge. We need to look at the “big picture” – where this whole issue began – state law. The applicant claims state law requires all towns, including Woodbridge, to provide a housing mix of which at least 10% qualifies as affordable under state law. The law on which they base their claims was passed in 1989. Yet over 30 plus years only a small portion of Connecticut’s towns have achieved the 10% goal. Why have so many towns, including Woodbridge, failed to reach the goal? As with many laws that paint with a broad brush, the 10% target contains a fundamental flaw. The law fails to take into account competing state goals such as protection of drinking water quality, wetlands and open space. Moreover, it ignores the situations in towns like ours that make meeting such a threshold impractical, if not impossible. Our situation is most of Woodbridge relies on wells and septic systems, lacks public transportation and provides a vitally important drinking water supply watershed for the greater New Haven area.
Affordable housing advocates have tried for many years to transform the 10% goal into a 10% mandate. Failure to achieve that mark comes with consequences for the town. One of our Selectman, Joe Crisco, represented our town as a State Senator for 24 years. In that time there does not seem to be any record to indicate Mr. Crisco made any substantive effort to fix this affordable housing law so it works for Woodbridge. I’m not suggesting over such a long period of service Mr. Crisco should have examined every law on the books, but this issue was the focus of Senate action several times during his tenure and a question every elected representative should ask about bills that come before him or her is “how can this affect my constituents?” I would be pleased to be proven wrong on this point because 24 years is a long time to have done nothing about it.
The major parties have now nominated their candidates for municipal offices for the May 3 election. Woodbridge voters deserve to know where the Board of Selectmen candidates stand on this vital issue. The Republican candidates for the Board of Selectmen, Stephen B. Francis, David A. Lober and David Vogel are clear-eyed and united in their opposition to this application. Frankly, this should not be a partisan issue, but it has been on the table for months and not a single Democrat has been defending Woodbridge against accusations of racism or providing relevant facts to the residents they represent. I suggest if the Democrat candidates are in favor of this application, they should have the courage to say so and defend their position. If they want to join the Republican position in opposition, that’s better for the town and we can debate other pressing issues, of which there are many. But right now, zoning is the critical issue of the day and residents deserve to know where the Board of Selectmen candidates stand.
One other point about the “small picture.” Local Democrat leaders have continually tried to insert the vitriol and emotion of national politics into our Woodbridge elections. But the issues in our town are local and wholly different from those at the national level. The local Democrats have controlled the town for over 14 years. And what has been the result? Town residents have been saddled with an ever-increasing mill rate, stagnation over the future of the Country Club of Woodbridge, inexcusable treatment of our volunteer Historical Society and the aforementioned, inexplicable silence on the imminent threat to our town zoning. I respectfully submit to Woodbridge voters it is time to focus on the “small picture” of how Woodbridge is being led. We can do better and in May we’ll have a chance to bring balance back to our local government. Let’s take advantage of that opportunity by keeping our eye on the local ball.