Op-Ed: The Character of New Canaan

At a standing-room only Planning & Zoning Commission hearing on October 29th, Waveny Life Care Network proposed building an independent living residence that would complete its plan to provide a continuing care retirement community (“CCRC”) in New Canaan. Almost everyone agrees with the concept, but over 1,000 residents have signed a petition opposing the proposed site on Oenoke Ridge. 

Opponents apparently assume that if they block the Oenoke Ridge site, the facility could simply be built somewhere else. For 30 years, Town leaders and developers have floated New Canaan locations for senior housing and each time have been told to “build somewhere else.” Each time, “somewhere else” has turned out to mean nowhere at all. 

If the Oenoke Ridge location is rejected, the message to developers will be that New Canaanites don’t want a CCRC in our Town. The opposition’s campaign tactics will become a template that other residents will use to resist proposals in other locations.

Letter: ‘Yes’ to Senior Housing

It’s hard to imagine a project that would create greater value at less cost to New Canaan taxpayers than Waveny LifeCare Network’s senior housing proposal for Oenoke Ridge. 

Why wouldn’t we want to attract and retain homeowners who want a local independent living option for their aging parents? Why wouldn’t we want residents to stay in their homes in their 60’s and 70’s, knowing that there’s a highly desirable in-town solution for housing and care in our 80’s and 90’s? 

The Oenoke Ridge project will require approval of the Planning and Zoning Commission. It will have detractors, but it should win approval if there’s overwhelming support from the community. Let’s give it. 

New Canaan already is one of the world’s best places to live. Let’s make it one of the best places to stay.

Op-Ed: Something’s Gone Askew in Town Budget Talks

Something seems to be askew in this year’s deliberations over the town budget. 

The budget process began in November 2018, when the Board of Finance unanimously adopted “Budget Guidelines for Fiscal Year 2019-2020.” The BOF analysis was thoughtful, thorough, and conservative. It determined that a $3 million (2 percent) cap on spending growth would protect the town financially while continuing services at levels citizens demand. 

Meeting the guidelines became a consensus goal for Town managers and school leaders. The guidelines were the centerpiece of an offsite budget meeting of all the key stakeholders on Nov. 17.

Op-Ed: Understanding the Coming Property Revaluation

How will New Canaan property taxes be affected by the Oct. 1, 2018 real estate revaluation that’s currently in process? The answer to this question will vary by homeowner, but it’s worth thinking about its effect on taxpayers in general. For simplicity, let’s set aside the budget’s other moving parts and examine the impact of the revaluation alone. After every real estate revaluation, the Board of Finance determines whether the tax rate (the “mill rate”) needs to be adjusted to keep tax revenues constant.

Op-Ed: The Brick Barn Risk to Taxpayers

The Mead Park Brick Barn debate should focus on New Canaan taxpayers. Should we underwrite the cost of preserving the Barn in perpetuity? Most would say no. 

The New Canaan Preservation Alliance claims that its September 12 proposal “Eliminates all Town costs related to [the] Barn.” That’s what taxpayers want to hear. But the claim would be true only if the State of Connecticut continues grant and tax credit programs at current levels for several years, if the State approves the full amount of NCPA submissions in each of three consecutive years, and if private donations are sufficient to defray any short-term and long-term maintenance costs not funded by the State. 

That’s a lot of “ifs.”