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Other Side of The Aisle 9.1.23

Learn from history, don’t repeat it

Every election gives us the chance to elect new leaders with better solutions to meet the town’s challenges. Here’s one that Woodbridge has faced for the past 14 years – developing and executing a sustainable plan for the Country Club of Woodbridge (CCW).

With the November 7 election upon us, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) abruptly issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) inviting a private consultant to prepare a master plan for the CCW. For those keeping track, residents voted overwhelmingly 14 years ago to acquire the CCW in response to a Democrat First Selectmen’s promise to preserve it as open space. Since that time the BOS - controlled by the Democrat party and led by two different Democrat First Selectmen - has not delivered a long-term plan for the property. Instead, housing options have continued to be floated with varying degrees of seriousness, to the exclusion of other possibilities.

Since the end of golf course operations, the Democratic-controlled Board of Selectmen has been passive, waiting for a developer to offer the town a housing development proposal for the CCW. The first proposal – from Toll Brothers – was rejected in a town vote by a 2:1 margin in December 2011. Since then, there have been modest efforts to seek resident input (in 2014 and 2018) with zero follow through. Residents have stepped up to voice concerns about the Selectmen’s inaction, and many have offered ideas for the CCW’s future. In one instance, some 300 residents signed a petition requesting a town vote on a plan to conserve the golf course acreage while seeking commercial development of the former clubhouse and its surroundings. The BOS refused to take that proposal to the voters. Another time, the BOS refused to let residents vote on an offer from two Woodbridge conservation groups to purchase a conservation easement. Instead, the BOS sat and waited, and two more developers eventually approached the town. These proposals derailed when residents – not the BOS – raised strong, insightful questions. Inaction after inaction. All the while our once-beautiful asset further deteriorates.

And what of the current RFP? It is another attempt by the First Selectman and the Democrat BOS majority to relinquish both leadership and responsibility. The RFP expressly states “selected consultant will need to build trust with the public; should have strong public speaking skills; and shall develop a plan to educate and engage stakeholders.” Isn’t this what we elect the First Selectman and BOS to do? Further, the RFP heavily leans toward housing yet again despite the well-established record of residents opposing housing development. One strong reason for this is simple math – data shows more housing will create more financial problems for the town. Looking at the cost of education alone, we pay roughly $17,000 per student (whether at Beecher or Amity) per year. Any home with one public school student that doesn’t generate that much in property taxes means a net loss for the town. A family with two children in public school would cost $34,000. How many new homes would carry that tax burden? Few if any. When you add the cost per household for police and other public services, the gap between new house tax revenue and new housing costs gets even wider. Clearly, more housing is not an economic win for Woodbridge taxpayers.

What does Woodbridge need now? New leadership. We won’t solve the CCW situation by electing as a First Selectman someone who served on the BOS for four years when no progress on the CCW was made. Mica Cardozo was our Deputy First Selectman and had ample opportunity to publicly propose a path forward yet failed to do so. We need new, proactive leaders who will objectively analyze the various alternatives for property and do the hard work of informing voters and forging consensus on the CCW’s future.

Marty Halprin, our endorsed candidate for First Selectman, is an unaffiliated voter focused on making the right decisions based on objective analysis and public consensus, not politics. His fellow candidates for the BOS – Javier Aviles (R), Andrea Urbano (U), and David Vogel (R) - share Marty’s conviction that it is time to lead. We can do better, and this team will do better fo

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