Let me begin by stating that I highly respect The Miriam Osborn Memorial Home’s elder community. Its residents have worked hard and are living their golden years in one of the most beautiful places on earth — something we can all hope for. Further, The Osborn provides great care to seniors in their residences, as well as great home care.
For historical context, just 20 years ago, The Osborn successfully completed a $120 million ($204 million adjusted for inflation), ten-year construction project “to reinvent its facility for the 21stcentury.” The project, called Pathway 2000 included construction of 26 buildings, including 20 garden homes, three multi-story apartments, and a new nursing home.
Now, however, The Osborn is proposing an amendment to zoning laws enable it to further develop the campus.
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During the past two years, amid a global pandemic that harshly affected all of us — elderly, parents, and children — neighbors of The Osborn learned about rezoning plans and the potential doubling of building square footage. Currently, The Osborn has 97,000 square feet available to build on, without rezoning, but and is requesting an additional 265,000 square feet.
Neighbors were both surprised and troubled by the plan. Over 100 neighbors joined, virtually, the March 2021 City Council meeting at which this rezoning proposal was discussed. We expressed a long list of concerns: change of community character, construction next to our children’s public school, increased traffic, removal of trees and green space, and impact on property values. After three hours of opposition, it was clear that neighbors needed more details.
Finally, last week, The Osborn brought more clarity to their proposal by providing an illustrative site plan. We respect The Osborn community, but the planners did not listen to neighbors’ concerns. One of our key worries is that the potential development, next to our residential neighborhood and Osborn Elementary, could result in building that is 30 percent taller than the St. Regis development on Old Post Road.
The Osborn has a 55.8-acre property, and we are asking them to be considerate of the location of any new buildings.
The Osborn has mentioned a multi-phase ten-year development plan. Residents are concerned about years of construction noise, traffic, and air pollution. This is not a renovation of their cottages. This is a prolonged plan of demolition, rock blasting, deep digging, and construction of multiple buildings next to our children’s school.
Why am I so passionate about this issue? Because a section of this plan will affect 600 Rye City School children who attend Osborn School, in addition to Milton and Midland children in the Kids’ S.P.A.C.E. afterschool program. Many local sports leagues, Rye Little League and Rye Youth Soccer, which use the school fields will also be affected as construction hours are 7:30 a.m.- 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m.-5 pm on Saturdays.
Another central concern neighbors have with the proposal is the potential for increased flooding. Rye’s flooding problems are not new. However, their frequency and severity are. Since Pathway 2000, Rye has experienced major flooding from Hurricanes and Tropical Storms: Irene, Sandy, Henri, and devastation from Ida in September 2021.
The Osborn was built on Rye’s highest point. This location is considered a drainage basin divide, which means water flows downhill from this point. The existing structures, mature trees, and green space have been able to absorb water from hurricanes and heavy rains. However, the plans on the southern section of The Osborn site include major buildings and new impervious surfaces (roads and parking lots) which will speed water runoff and could have a costly negative impact.
So, the question remains, what to do? In my opinion, The Osborn developers need to really listen to residents’ concerns, and we respectfully ask the City Council to vote no on the current proposal as it stands. They should scale back the project and ensure the area closest to our school and residential neighborhood is protected.
Every single letter submitted by concerned neighbors makes a difference and has brought us closer as a community. Neighbors are open to dialogue and finding common ground with a more reasonable development plan.
- Daniela Arredondo de Kehoe