Controversial plans for Woodbridge country club property draw hundreds
More than 200 residents packed the Center building gym Monday, Dec. 17, for an informational/comment session on two proposals for upscale, age-restricted cluster housing on the controversial Country Club of Woodbridge property, but as always, the debate became more about the general fate of the property than the projects themselves.
First Selectwoman Beth Heller said at the outset the current cost to carry the property is a half-million dollars per year and that the Board of Selectmen — it was technicall a special meeting of the board — would not choose a proposal Monday to be put out for a referendum vote.
The town purchased the 150-acre property, golf course, pool and clubhouse for $7 million in 2009 to keep it from being developed after the owners went bankrupt.
Since then, a golf course has failed financially and the pool, kept open with summer membership, has been closed. The country club building is beyond repair and the question of what to do with the property has become a political hot button.
Many vocal residents want it to remain as open space and still others want to see it developed to generate income — and there were examples of both in two bold speakers who took the lectern, residents Cheryl Lipson and Hillel Auerbach.
Lipson said she loves to walk the property for physical and psychological health and that building there is, “not what the town wants or needs.”
She said the financial rewards would come only after completion and the projects would take some five years to finish. Lipson said the administration should look at other ways to increase revenue.
She said town voters shot down a similar age-restricted housing plan by Toll Brothers years you, sending the message loud and clear.
Lipson received loud cheers and applause.
Auerbach had the opposite take — and he received mild applause compared to Lipson.
He said the town never should have bought the property to begin with, but now that it’s here it’s “ridiculous” to build on 50 acres and leave 100 acres of park.
Auerbach said he’d like to see both projects built there and questioned why the housing should be age-restricted when removing restrictions might help them sell better. He said he’d like to see 250 homes there.
There were two proposals described by developers and their teams:
Insite Development Group, of which resident Brian St. Pierre is the head, said they would purchase about 60 acres of the CCW property and build 120 single-family homes that will sell in the high $400,000 range. Some 90-plus acres would become a park for Woodbridge residents.
The other proposal, by Robert Sachs, developer of Fieldstone Village in Orange, calls for the project to be on 54 acres, about 125 detached unit condominiums, and beginning in the mid-$400,000 price range.
Both would have a clubhouse and other amenities.
Residents asked the developers general questions, such as whether they had enough money to keep their project going if the economy crashed, to which they both said, “yes.”
Many are concerned that once clustered housing is allowed, it will set a precedent and other such projects will be approved in town, compromising the community.
St. Pierre assured them there are all kinds of ways around that through how the regulation is written — for instance, it can only allow such housing where there is 100 acres abutting, or where sewers exist, he said.
At a town meeting on the property a few years ago, some 300 residents showed to voice strong opinions and hear proposals for a world-class golf course and housing proposed by Toll Brothers.
The Board of Selectmen ultimately rejected those and, after numerous meetings, have gone back to entertaining age-restricted housing for those 55 and older.
Heller has said she wanted to hold the meeting to get input from residents on two proposals, as many have expressed interest in such housing so they can scale down and stay in town.