Wednesday, July 18, 2007

From sea to shining sea . . .

Bellevue residents worry about explosion of ''McMansions''

BELLEVUE WA -The City of Bellevue says it may be time to set up new regulations on home construction.

The concern is about so-called McMansions. A new report indicates that 432 of 1,031 new house construction permits in Bellevue (over the last six years) were for tear down of an existing house to be replaced by a larger home. The average increase in size is said to be 163 percent, from an older 2,000 square foot home to a new 5,260 square foot building.

The city council is asking the building department to review the way building height is calculated, the so-called "daylight plane," and possibly requiring increased side setbacks for the large homes. Another proposal would bar the combining of lots to allow construction of even larger homes.

Bellevue says the average livable floor space of a new home in the city is 4,268 square feet, with another 804 square feet for a garage.

The largest number of home tear downs has been in Northwest and West Bellevue.

That's where Trish Kraft lives. "Our neighborhood is a war zone," she said.

There's a constant beeping of a truck back-up alarm; the occasional sound of gravel being dumped; and a significant increase in traffic.

"I counted the other day and within a one block radius of our home, 20 mansions have gone up," Kraft said.

The house next door has taken half her view of the Olympics. With each new plywood sheet on the roof, a little more view disappears.

The neighborhood now includes a $2 million house, and a $4 million one.

Here are some of the City's concerns according to Bellevue's Neighborhood Coordinator Cheryl Kuhn: "The impact includes loss of sunlight, vegetation dying, gardens dying because of houses looming over their yards, robbing them of access to the sun."

Kuhn says the city is mindful of the property rights of those who buy property and those who live in the neighborhoods. She says the city hopes to be able to put together a solution that will satisfy the concerns of both.

One neighbor, Jay Rubin, predicts in a few years, the mega-homes will be too expensive for anyone.

"I think if the energy crisis continues, and gets worse, a lot of these people are going to have to move out of their houses. I just can't imagine how they are going to pay to keep themselves warm in the winter."

Rubin said they could huddle together, if they can find each other.

- Seattle, Washington, July 18, 2007 | KOMOTV.COM

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