‘The Answer To That Is Emphatically, No’: Town Planner Finds That Oenoke Ridge Road Homeowner Is Not Operating a Farm

The Oenoke Ridge Road homeowner whose property is the subject of a neighbor’s zoning appeal is, in fact, not a farm under the state’s definition of the term, according to New Canaan’s advising town planner. Though the McQuilkins of 757 Oenoke Ridge Road keep egg-laying chickens and fur-bearing alpacas, they’re not taking those commodities to market for direct sale, Steve Kleppin said in a memo issued ahead of Monday night’s Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. The ZBA is expected to discuss an appeal brought by the McQuilkins’ neighbors, Peter and Kathy Streinger, who argue that the keeping of animals and equipment rises to the legal definition of ‘farming’ and requires a special permit. In his advisory comments sent ahead of Monday’s meeting to the ZBA, Board of Selectmen and town attorney, Kleppin notes that “the McQuilkins have on occasion sold eggs from a farm stand on Oenoke Ridge as indicated in the photographs provided.”

“I have instructed the McQuilkins that the sale of or bartering of eggs or other products, whether sold on the property or elsewhere, would constitute farming and require a special permit. They have agreed that they would not sell or barter items produced on the property and would seek a special permit should they decide to do that.

Did You Hear … ?

The alpacas of Crajah House on Oenoke Ridge Road on Tuesday were shorn of their thick winter coats—see photos above. Their owner, New Canaan’s Debbie McQuilkin, tells us the process for each “blanket” includes picking out sticks, hay and straw, then going for the secondary areas of the neck, backside and legs. The material is sent to a fiber mill where it’s washed, cleaned again and dyed or made into a yarn that McQuilkin herself chooses—fine knitting or heavy weaving for rugs. It also can be sent back for hand spinning or felting, McQuilkin said. The alpaca fleece is hypoallergenic and contains no lanolin, and it’s naturally fire-resistant.

Crajah House: The Alpacas of Oenoke Ridge

Debbie McQuilkin on a recent morning stepped into the paddock she had built last summer on this historic, prominent Oenoke Ridge Road property. She scooped a bucket of grain from the shed and then turned to face the huge brown eyes and serene, slow-moving heads of her newest, most voluminous pets, explaining how all of this started, while—in a habit that animal-lovers often share—interspersing her human-to-human sentences by addressing the beasts directly, and in a higher-pitched voice. “Abby is a little shy still. Go on, Gigi. Come here.