Friday, July 27, 2007

Time to Tip?

Leveling restrictions on McMansions
As America's desire for bigger houses grows, communities declare enough. But capping growth can have unintended effects.

ALLENSPARK, COLO. — Fed up with seeing outsize houses popping up in open spaces or overwhelming the scale of established neighborhoods, cities and counties across the United States are declaring war on McMansions.

• Famously eco-friendly Boulder County, Colo., is considering forcing people in some rural areas to pay extra to build homes bigger than 3,000 square feet.

• Atlantic Beach, Fla., has restricted home size to half the square footage of lots, and the Los Angeles City Council is due to consider a similar measure.

• In Minneapolis, reining in big homes was the top issue Betsy Hodges heard about when door-knocking in her successful campaign for City Council in 2005; last month she and the rest of the council unanimously passed a law restricting home size to half the square footage of each lot.

"There are blocks in my district where almost every house has been rebuilt," Hodges said last week. With homebuilders replacing "smaller houses and building larger homes, people felt they were losing the things they valued about their neighborhood."

McMansions are an issue mostly in built-out cities or in rural communities where residents hope to preserve a bucolic character, experts say. Traditionally, home size has been regulated by zoning laws that require structures to be set back a certain distance from the property line and permit building only within a "footprint." But as land prices rise and the desire for bigger houses grows, new housing is increasingly "bigfooting" lots and consuming airspace, leading to the rush to set limits.

I recommend a read of this article as it offers good information on how places are dealing with issue, the tensions, the forces and the counter forces. Are we reaching a tipping point?

A person can hope.

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