One year after withdrawing its application to build a senior housing complex on Oenoke Ridge, Waveny LifeCare Network last week purchased a residential property there for $1.5 million.
Waveny officials had said in the months leading up to applying in October 2019 to build a 70-unit residential retirement building that its purchase of the .88-acre property at 65 Oenoke Ridge was under contract pending approval for its project by the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Ultimately, following several widely followed hearings before P&Z, the organization on March 18, 2020 withdrew its application, citing its focus on the emerging COVID-19 pandemic.
On Friday, Waveny purchased the parcel, which includes a 1929-built Colonial, from the New Canaan Museum and Historical Society, tax records show.
The acquisition “is purely a prudent business decision,” according to a press release issued by Waveny on Monday on behalf of the organization.
“This parcel effectively ensures a contiguous connection of important real estate that protects and improves the sustainability of Waveny’s future,” it said.
Russ Barksdale, Jr., Waveny’s president and CEO, said in the press release, “Exercising the purchase option now gives us time to evaluate all of our options through an inclusive process to which we remain committed.”
A letter dated Friday and attributed to Barksdale as well as Kathleen Corbet and Leo Karl III—chair and vice chair Waveny’s Board of Directors, respectively—says, in part, “Although there are no specific plans for the property at this time, exercising the purchase option gives Waveny time to evaluate all options.”
It adds, “As you may know, St. Mark’s Church is well represented by Fr. Peter Walsh and Jill Sautkulis who serve on our Waveny Board and they have been active participants in the discussions and unanimous decision to purchase the property.” The letter refers to the pastor of St. Mark’s and its director of operations.
The church, at the time of Waveny’s application to P&Z and throughout public hearings that grew contentious at times, withheld support for the organization’s project, as did many neighbors, including residents of the condominiums on Heritage Hill Road.
It’s unclear how P&Z would have voted on Waveny’s application at the time. The town planner for the Commission’s February 2020 meeting drafted resolutions for approval or denial, and—though members of the appointed body agreed that more planning is needed for senior housing—some commissioners voiced concerns that the proposed building was too large for the parcel.
In their withdrawal letter, Barksdale, Corbet and Karl said the organization had “decided to withdraw our pending zoning applications rather than adding to the burden of our volunteer P&Z commissioners and town leadership.”
“We do not make this decision lightly but do so with the public’s best interest in mind,” the withdrawal letter said. “Waveny intends and looks forward to returning to [the] Planning and Zoning Commission with a new submission at the appropriate time.”
Waveny purchased the Oenoke Ridge property through a bank loan, “not from sources of operating income or endowment funds,” Barksdale said in the press release.
Asked for a comment, Nancy Geary, executive director of the Historical Society, said her organization’s board unanimously approved the sale.
“The plans for the property when it was purchased by the Historical Society nearly two decades ago no longer make sense,” Geary said in an email. “These funds will allow the Museum to address deferred maintenance issues in its historic buildings, to make improvements to the campus for a better visitor experience, and to start to build an endowment so that this institution can remain a vibrant cultural asset for the town.”