Letter: Scale and Design of Oenoke Ridge Facility ‘Undercut New Canaan’s Prestige’

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To the Editor,

The model of the proposed Oenoke facility exhibited at the December 17th P & Z meeting was much needed but it does not go far enough to illustrate the drainage problems and excessive height from the perspective of the 165 Oenoke condos that lie directly beneath it. (I have tried to roughly approximate a small segment of the condition in Photoshop). 

Composite from the writer.

The newly created model should be expanded to extend down the slope through the condos to the drainage pond/marsh at its foot on Heritage Hill Road.

Engineers warn the Oenoke drainage system may experience backflow and the drainage pond/marsh may overflow. The proposed facility does not address climate change—perhaps because state and local statutes do not address climate change—yet climate change is very much with us today. Builders must equal present conditions but need not improve those conditions. Should the ill conceived overlay zone succeed, the flooding condition is something the Planning and Zoning Commission can and must consider and plan for.

The proposed Oenoke facility is not and does not claim to be a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community). AARP states “The chief benefit of CCRCs is that they provide a wide range of care, services and activities in one place.”

I believe most New Canaan seniors thought the proposed Oenoke Ridge Facility would include an on site assisted living facility, but that is not the case. The Inn is intended for senior rentals. The Village at Farm Road provides assisted living for memory care and for short-term respite care. Planning and Zoning in Town Hall said no plans for additions or renovations to the Village at Farm Road have been filed and no plans for an Assisted Living Facility per se have been filed. To my knowledge there is no bricks and mortar provision for Assisted Living. The lack of assisted living is the proposed Oenoke facility’s Achilles heel. As I understand it, today all residents of New Canaan houses, condos and the Inn are currently able to receive and pay for assisted living either from private insurance, Medicare, or out of pocket. This condition will not change by the creation of an overlay zone to build the proposed Oenoke facility. Those who buy units in the proposed facility will pay for assisted living as before—either from private insurance, Medicare, or out of pocket.

At this time anyone who lives in any New Canaan house or in any New Canaan condo may receive medical assistance at the Waveny Care Center on Farm Road. However the owners of the units in the proposed Oenoke Ridge Facility will have priority and will therefore bump down other New Canaan residents on the Waveny Care Center waiting list.

There are 99 condo groups in New Canaan, some are very small, others large. The proposed Oenoke Ridge Facility is no different than any other New Canaan condo group, other than for its amenities and age requirement. The Oenoke Ridge Facility might best be described as a residential hotel offering meals, an indoor swimming pool, a movie theatre and Waveny Health Care priority.

From my personal point of view, though less meaningful than the other concerns I have offered, I feel both the scale and banal design of the Oenoke Ridge Facility will severely undercut New Canaan’s prestige as a center of architectural vision, which I traveled to study while at Brown University in the 1950s. The design of the Oenoke Ridge Facility ignores the spare New England tradition of the Historical Society buildings to its right the iconic mid century modern architecture of St. Mark’s Church to its left.

Mary Anne Case, New Canaan senior

4 thoughts on “Letter: Scale and Design of Oenoke Ridge Facility ‘Undercut New Canaan’s Prestige’

  1. Thanks, Mary Anne! Thanks also for your great comments at the Nov. P&Z hearing. You’ve obviously done some good research and footwork for your comments. Re the proposed building, it remains massive. Although Waveny made some changes to the proposal in the right direction, those changes were minuscule relative to what’s needed. The building remains way too massive for the site and will spoil three of New Canaan’s crown jewels (the Historical Society, the view from St. Mark’s, and Oenoke Ridge), not to mention Oenoke Condominium’s view & storm drain system.

  2. Good job Mary Anne — let the Town give them land or give them a donation so they can find a better site — a larger site

  3. I have a question – there are two parcels of land that the Historical Society were given by the Johansen Family. One has the house and the other a piece of land behind the house. Is the proposal that both parcels are going to be used for this large facility? If so, the parcel behind the house has a covenant on it stating that it can be only used for a single family residential home. It can not be used for anything other than a home.

  4. I thank Mary Anne Case for her excellent and valid comments! It is time for the P&Z to realize that the site on Oenoke Ridge is being proposed simply to give the Waveny Network a cheaper way to get the retirement facility built. There is absolutely no concern for any residents of the town nor the damage that it will create. Rules have been in place to protest the town and all who live here! This facility should not open the door to debase the rules of our New Canaan town. Let Waveny Network find a better location.

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