I am Rich Townsend 34 White Oak Shade Road, New Canaan. For full disclosure, I am also a member of the Waveny Board of Directors where I served as the treasurer until going on leave about one year ago. In addition I also serve as a vice chairman of the Town Council. I want to endorse the development of Oenoke Ridge.
When Waveny LifeCare Network was started in 1975, it was envisioned as a local nonprofit health services organization focused on the needs of our community. As our nation’s and community’s demographics have shifted, so have our health and housing needs. By any measure, our community lacks senior housing. Page #38 of the New Canaan Plan of Conservation and Development, Section C. notes, “There is interest in additional development in and near the downtown area for a number of different purposes.” Housing, particularly for empty nesters and senior citizens, is the first subpoint. This is the only demographic group mentioned. Waveny should be our community’s choice to take on that task.
The financial facts are that Waveny LifeCare Network cannot stay competitive without adding this last critical component to its continuum of care. Over the last 30 years, Waveny has taken on this task and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop plans that have not been executed. Why ? Waveny has repeatedly been blocked by a “Not In My Backyard” campaign. This group has engaged yet again, and I am sure will speak [before the Planning & Zoning Commission]. But the question that continues to remain unanswered is, if not here, where ? Waveny cannot execute its mission without that answer.
Unlike Tom Butterworth, I believe that a senior independent living facility will be built in New Canaan. That developers will not leave us without local senior housing. I believe that commercial developers are quietly buying property, with the hope of being able to compel this zoning board’s approval of their development. Perhaps with additional help from the state as they have gotten with affordable housing. The result will be a senior Independent living facility wherever the developer can buy property and of a size, height and price point that maximizes their shareholders return. Frankly, that is their job and they are good at it.
Waveny is part of what gives the New Canaan community its character. We all feel that Waveny is our LifeCare Network. Waveny will provide $4 million to $5 million of charitable care this year for members of this community.
Waveny’s initial plan for this facility called for more than 100 units and included the renovation of the New Canaan Inn. That plan has already been reduced in scope by more than 30% and eliminated the renovation of the Inn as a result of working with its adjacent neighbors, the Historical Society and St Mark’s.
The rule of thumb for a senior independent living facility to operate economically is a minimum of 100 units. The reduction to 70 units is only possible for a nonprofit that is willing to forgo economies of scale in favor of satisfying its neighbor’s concern for sight lines.
The market studies show that our community lacks senior independent living alternatives. The seniors of our community contribute heavily to our charitable organizations and public-private partnerships, they require a minimum of town services and work thousands of hours as volunteers organizing and running our community. Not providing our seniors a community based independent living alternative developed by Waveny would be a significant strategic mistake.