New Canaan needs more housing for senior citizens who wish to “downsize” and remain in New Canaan. However, the question is where should it be permitted and built such that it is affordable and does not detract from New Canaan’s small-town charm?
The 70-unit retirement complex which Waveny LifeCare Network proposes to build at 65 Oenoke Ridge is simply too large for the site, and will destroy the small-town rural feeling that the present zoning and Historic District designation has created as one drives into New Canaan from the north. As a member of the New Canaan Historic Society, I object strongly to the visual impact the proposed center will have on the campus of the Historical Society. As a member of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, I do not want a huge housing complex looming over the Great Lawn. Will the residents object to the noise and commotion of the May Fair? As a member of the Board of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, I further do not want to see a spot zoning variance that will forever change the entrance to New Canaan’s village center from the north.
In January 2018, I was invited to lunch by Pat Stoddard and Barb Achenbaum of Staying Put to discuss possible senior housing at the site of the Historical Society’s “Yellow House”. The proposal was then for perhaps as many as a dozen townhouse style apartments, with community dining and concierge service. This sounded like a good plan, and I was prepared to help move the project forward. I suggested that Staying Put and Waveny LifeCare approach the Historical Society and offer a 99-year lease for the property. We were advised that the donor of the Yellow House had put a deed restriction on the property that limited its use to “historical education.” Has that deed restriction now been changed or eliminated?
The project has morphed from townhouses for a limited number of seniors, to a full-scale Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), complete with a bistro-bar restaurant, 120-seat theater, meeting rooms, gym, indoor swimming pool, and underground parking. Does an in-town complex really need all the amenities when we have many restaurants; a movie theater; meeting rooms at the Historical Society, Town Hall, Library, St. Marks and Nature Center nearby; and a pool and gym at the YMCA – all easily accessible by the GetAbout service?
This type of complex (like Meadow Ridge) should be built on a much larger parcel of land where the facilities can be spread out in a campus-like setting. I would rather see a zoning variance in the four-acre zone, or on an in-town side street, off a main thoroughfare into New Canaan, than see the proposed complex crammed into a tiny parcel, and forever change the rural and historical aspect of the north entrance into the Town Center.
The proposal to build six houses on the site of the Roger Sherman Inn was denied by P&Z after much public discussion. I hope that the Commission will likewise deny the Waveny Care proposal as presented.
G. Warfield “Skip” Hobbs