Saying the immediate popularity of a holistic wellness program she had intended to offer only friends on her own property has prompted her to develop the idea further, the founder of ‘Orchard’s End Health’ told officials she will not pursue a special permit to operate at her Oenoke Ridge Road residence.
Instead, Elsa Sykes told town officials in a formal letter sent Friday that she is “actively seeking a location that will allow clients to experience a comprehensive program.”
“I am pleased with the private sanctuary I created with my personal wellness center and it will be an amazing journey creating an environment that provides these essentials for a health to a larger audience,” she said in a Feb. 10 letter sent to the town planner, Planning & Zoning enforcement officer and Health Department sanitarian following a site visit last week.
“The fact that the chain of events has forced me to pivot and rethink where to focus the growth of my program is potentially a good thing. By not seeking a home-based business special use permit, and instead looking to obtain commercially zoned space, I will be able to help more people in our community and draw people looking for such an experience from anywhere. As excited as I was to share the program with a small group of individuals by invitation only, I am even more excited about helping anyone that comes to me seeking to improve their health and enrich their life through natural foods and mind, body and spiritual enlightenment.”
P&Z commissioners discussed the operation briefly and in general terms at a public meeting two weeks ago, after an anonymous complainant brought it to their attention. An attorney retained by Sykes said at first that a special permit application would be filed with P&Z on her behalf.
Yet Sykes now said she intends to take what she’s developed so far and use her website “as a launchpad for a streaming, subscriber model health and wellness program,” she said in the letter.
“The program I’m creating includes videos, coaching webinars, a wellness journal I created, and a blueprint for creating a holistic lifestyle no matter where you live.”
“So many people are run down, overwhelmed and stuck,” Sykes said in the letter. “They know things need to change but aren’t quite sure where to begin—all that we have to juggle and fit in to our lives can be completely overwhelming. My program is designed to help people achieve successful transformation by eliminating the body of toxic food and toxic thoughts. By changing old patterns of thinking while ridding the body of harmful substances, people can manifest results faster and obtain and sustain a holist lifestyle. If you don’t heal the inside, you can’t heal the outside.”
Though she never intended to create a “center” at her home that would be open to the public, “the popularity and success of our program among friends coupled with the launch of my website sparked allegations that we were a commercial venture,” Sykes said.
“I take responsibility for this, however, that fact still stands that I have not operated in the past, nor do I want to in the future, run a public ‘spa’ out of my home property.”
She referred to someone’s anonymous complaint that appears to accuse Sykes—wrongly—of failing to obtain building permits for a renovation of outbuildings on her 6.26-acre property.
The Jan. 23 complaint letter, signed ‘A Concerned Neighbor,’ said: “They are conducting a Day Spa with yoga, a UV infrared sauna, food prep classes and even massages. As a neighbor who lives nearby, and one who has renovated my own home by first obtaining a building permit, I thought you should know about their activities. I hope you will look into this, inspect the property and make sure everything is on the up and up.”
Sykes in her letter thanked the town officials for visiting her property and for their support in helping to dispel rumors about activities there.
“My husband and I love it here in New Canaan and we thoroughly enjoyed restoring our home,” Sykes said.
“In case you wondered about the name Orchards End for our wellness program it came from my search through records at the Historical Society. According to the records, the original manor was named Orchard’s end and was built between 1927-1929 as a summer house for Rush Taggart, chief counsel for Standard Oil, and associate of Lewis Lapham, the owner of Waveny. Like Waveny, Orchards End was designed by William Tubby, who also designed Greenwich’s Dunnellen Hall and New York City’s five Carnegie Libraries. Also like Waveny, in spite of the Jacobean styling, Orchards end used modern construction (masonry over a steel frame) in conjunction with brick and limestone to give it a true country estate feel.”