Letter: Waveny Should Be ‘Our Community’s Choice’ To Develop Senior Housing

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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.

Thank you,

Rich Townsend

10 thoughts on “Letter: Waveny Should Be ‘Our Community’s Choice’ To Develop Senior Housing

  1. I agree Waveny should be our first choice for the development of New Canaans senior housing. That said does the plan proposed fit in with the SHOZ guidelines. If not which of the eligibility requirements below do not conform. This will help our residents make a better decision as to what is being proposed.

    W Section 5.10 – Senior Housing Overlay Zone (SHOZ) A. Purpose
    The Senior Housing Overlay Zone (SHOZ) is intended to add independent dwelling units for seniors within a facility(s) which is owned and operated by a philanthropic or eleemosynary institution that provides a continuum of care from independent living, to congregate living to convalescent homes.
    The SHOZ is an overlay zone, which enables an applicant to request Special Permit approval of a development using the provisions of this Section instead of those for the One-Half Acre Zone, the underlying zone. The SHOZ modifications to the One-Half Acre Zone regulations are in conformance with the Plan of Conservation and Development and are designed to preserve health, safety, property values, and the residential character of New Canaan, provide housing choices for an aging population, broaden the housing opportunities in and near downtown and increase residential development within walking distance of the train station.
    B. Eligibility
    To be eligible for rezoning to SHOZ:
    1. The Adult Housing Development must be located within the 1⁄2 Acre Zone.
    2. Theminimumlotsizemustbeatleastthreeacres(3.0acres).
    3. Theminimumlotwidthmustbeatleastonehundredandfifty(150)feet.
    4. Thepropertymustbelocatedwithinone-halfmileofthedowntownandtrain station.
    5. The lot must be located on and served by a collector or arterial road as identified in the Plan of Conservation and Development.
    6. Thedevelopmentandpropertymustbeownedandoperatedbyaphilanthropic or eleemosynary institution that provides a continuum of care within the community from independent living, to congregate living to convalescent homes.

    7. All structures and site improvements must comply with this Section of the Regulations as well as all other applicable provisions of the Regulations. In the event of any conflict between the provisions of this Section and any other Section of the Regulations, the provisions of this Section shall control.

  2. Thank you Rich. That’s well-stated, and you raise an interesting point that senior housing will happen one way or another, perhaps not so much to our advantage or to our liking. I hope we can support Waveny LifeCare. They know us, and we know them, and they are a world-class organization.

  3. I am 79 and have 2 sons and their young families living here in New Canaan. I am a widow of 2 years and in the next 2 or 3 years will need to move from my 3 story house in New Canaan. Where am I to go? I want to stay involved in the community and with my 7 grandchildren, but many of the condos are multi story and not appropriate for me.. When I read about Waveny and the possible construction of senior housing, I was delighted. My husband passed away in Waveny, and I have spent time there after knee replacements, etc. I think highly of it . It’s time for New Canaan to become a multi-generational family town and to have a place for those older citizens who have made New Canaan what it is today. I’m hoping that everyone will vote thinking of their elderly parents .

  4. I am for senior housing — the Oenoke Ridge location won’t effect me
    one way or another — but in the back of Mead park
    there is a spot that would be ideal for this 70 unit project

  5. The commentator must be referring to Bristow Park – New Canaan’s 17-acre Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve – located next to and accessible via Mead Park. Before this idea gets any consideration, all should know the land gifted to the Town in 1934 is deed restricted as a natural park, and no other use is allowed.

    • Chris: with all due respect to all the wonderful work you do and manage with Town open space, i do have to agree with Betty regarding the correct name and usage of Bristow. About a year ago she and I had quite a long phone call with a key person in the CT Attorney General’s office after Betty sent her the deed and other related material.
      She (Karen Gano) confirmed that Bristow is and always will be a Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve … in name and in purpose and in use… and will never be (if the deed is to be obeyed) a “park” or a “natural park” or anything with the word “park” in it.
      That, as i understand it is one reason why the Park and Rec commission no longer is in charge of Bristow and the conservation commission is.
      Cheers also to all your plans for the restoration of Bristow!

  6. Actually, the Bristow deed states that it “shall be forever maintained as a Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve, and used for no other purpose whatsoever.” It was never deeded to be a park.

    Building a 70 unit project (or any similar project) is prohibited in the Mead Park deed.

    • By way of further clarification, as Chris points out … there is Mead Park to the north, the railroad tracks to the west, residences to the east, and Bristow to the south … butting right up against Mead Park and its ball fields and children’s playground.

  7. My brother and father live in New Canaan — my father at Waveny Life Care. New Canaan could not ask for a more fit partner for senior housing.

    Hiding behind zoning red-herrings is ageism.

    <100 units is not economically viable. The town is lucky that Waveny is proposing a 70 unit community.

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