Friday, August 31, 2007

Garage Mahal on Glenwood

This house has so many OTT qualities that it is nominated for the belated July and current August Over The Top Award.

There are many things that make this house special. I hesitate to nominate it since it is being built as a private home rather than a spec house. But as I walked the neighborhood, it was clear this one is Over The Top from so many perspectives, it could become the poster house for defining the problems of over-sized rebuilds in old neighborhoods. Let me count the ways.

1) Streetscape: The original house on this lot blended with its neighbors. When in doubt remember this handy formula:
Streetscape = S1 + S2 + S3, where S1 = Setback, S2 = Style, and S3 = Size

2) Impact on existing neighbors: this courtesy can be accomplished by careful design. Pay attention to height, setbacks, views, tree canopy, and possible runoff from large amounts of impervious surfaces. Your neighbors will love you for it.

3) Respect neighborhood quality of life: this ambiance is what attracted you here in the first place. Lifetimes were spent tending this ground for future generations' enjoyment.

Up close and personal ...

This property was purchased for $385,000 in June 2005. Two years in the making, and still going, this house may single-handedly change the character and tax values of this section of Glenwood Avenue and the settled community behind it. We can be all for rights, but one's rights should require balancing with the impact such freedom can have on the wider public and private realm. I am certain that is why they invented zoning regulations.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


The debate over the new rules so far has pitted some property owners concerned about their right to use their land against environmental advocates who say owners don’t have the right to send sediment downstream — a problem the rules are designed to fight.

City staff have prepared the new rules in response to a state law requiring larger municipalities to enforce buffers of at least 30 feet along streams.

--Streams form battle lines: Property owners, environmentalists face off over proposed development limits
by Mark Barrett | CITIZEN-TIMES.COM

I find it neverendingly fascinating that every attempt to re-balance the zoning laws to protect existing property owners from negative effects caused by rapid development is met with the retort that this is a violation of "property rights." Is there no end to the irony that both sides of this issue believe it is primarily Their rights that are being infringed by the Other. Reminds me of a couple arguing over who was angry first, as if that is the ultimate litmus test for a valid issue.

Zoning came along to provide guidance for protection of individual property rights. It is a developer's protection as well as a set of regulations that require attention. It is the civic right of the citizenry to ask for stricter zoning, just as it is the right of the landowner (private, public, or business) to ask for lesser zoning. Civic process is the place these rights are heard and balanced.

Word that Rolling Meadows may impose a fee of as much as $5,000 on teardowns has prompted a group representing Northwest suburban real estate agents to prepare to fight what it dubs a "teardown tax."

City officials next month plan to discuss imposing a $1,500 fee for homes that are completely demolished to make way for larger homes. Leaders say replacing the city's post-World War II homes can change the character of the neighborhood.

A city committee looking at maintaining affordable housing in Rolling Meadows has suggested increasing the proposed fee to $5,000.

And the back and forth:
Jeff Metzger, government affairs director for the Realtor Association of Northwest Chicagoland, said the fee amounts to a tax. He questions how setting a fee would encourage affordable housing.

"We think property owners should have the right to do whatever they want with their property," Metzger said.

A person who razes a home to build a new one might not necessarily be building a larger one, he added.

Metzger said a newer home that sells for more on the market also improves the community and adds property taxes to the city's coffers.

City officials pushing for the fee, which will be formally discussed by aldermen next month, disagree.

"The increase in property values is precisely the phenomenon that keeps middle-class professionals and young families from being able to buy a home," said a report from the city's affordable housing committee.

--Realtors oppose teardown fee plan
By Ames Boykin | Chicago Daily Herald - Chicago, IL, USA

It all sounds mighty familiar. But what if it is true? What if we all have the same rights to protect or use our property as we see fit as long as it is legal. Where are the lines to be drawn?

If you can block my view, can I ruin yours in return?

If you can cut down all your trees, what about my shade?

If your runoff floods my property, will you clean it up?

I kinda think this line of reasoning is fraught with problems. Since we do not live in a vacuum, how's about we tackle these things civilly. Feigning shock that the other point of view has a point of view is troublesome to Fallonia.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Setbacks: Part IV

There are several ways to maximize an addition or renovation in ways that impact less the surrounding community. We can even go so far as to call these improvements because they were done in consideration of the tone of the neighborhood.

In this example a one story house received a second floor. It is next door, and slightly uphill, to a house that was already renovated and that has a 2nd floor bumping out of the roofline. The design solution was to step the roof of the renovated house down on the side. You can see the difference this makes in these pictures. There are probably variances involved as well, as that line is pretty close to the structure on the left.

In this example, in the same area and with the same zoning requirements, all effort was put into maximizing the size of the new home.

The result is not so pleasant for the original neighbor in the house on the right.

Remember, this streetscape looked like this for the past 60 plus years.

On the same street, an example of how you can bump out in the front without challenging the setback appearance. This house could legally have built into the front yard.

Like this one, and its twin up the street.

Problem solving is actually the mother of creativity. We have been fortunate to have so many builders working in the neighborhood, before the teardown era began, that created some fine solutions.

"Builder" only recently became a word met with mixed feelings. Maybe some things are just over the top.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Setbacks: Part III

Investigation Continues Into Rolesville House Fires

The heat from the flames were so intense, it melted the siding on nearby houses. The fire chief said that because the homes were so close together, the blaze was hard to contain.

As a result of the fire, residents are raising questions about the proximity of the houses and how that may have played a role as to how the fire spread so quickly.

A committee made up of building inspectors and developers is being formed to discuss whether zoning laws may need to be changed. (from WRAL-TV5)

Fire Destroys Nottingham Road Home (video)
RALEIGH, N.C. -- An early morning house fire burned a home under construction near the intersection of Farrior and Nottingham roads Wednesday. Investigators said the home, which was in the 1500 block of Nottingham Road, was unoccupied at the time the fire broke out just before 4 a.m. Wednesday, Aug 01, 2007 - By NBC17

Early morning fire tears through $900,000 home

Fire all but destroyed a 4,000-square-foot house under construction inside the Beltline early Wednesday morning. Investigators have not determined what caused the fire at 1419 Nottingham Drive.

. . .

Given the severe damage, work crews will have to tear down the house, Bland said.

"When all that's charred like that, you have to knock it down completely and start over," he said.

Bland said that firefighters told him the flames were shooting up 30 feet from the roof when they arrived shortly after 4 a.m.
The main living area appeared to be completely gutted, though the attached garage was untouched. (from N&O, see link above)

So, it is possible that setbacks affect more than community character. As in the fire in Rolesville, the possibility that stick built homes 10 feet apart can spread to the next home is cause for pause. In the Nottingham case, the house is one of 5 in a row that are being built in R-10 zoning. This house is on .28 acres. The description of the flames in the fire make one realize how lucky the neighborhood was that it was contained so quickly.

Here are setback tables for Raleigh zoning.

R-4 is 4 units per acre
  (10,890 square feet minimum lot size)
R-6 is 6 units per care
  (7,260 sq. ft. minimum lot size)
R-10 is 10 units per acre
  (5,000 sq. ft. minimum lot size)

Yards and setbacks
Zone .. Front .. Side .. Aggregate* .. Rear
R-4........ 30’ ..... 10’..... 20’ ..... 30’
R-6.........20’ ..... 5’ ..... 15’ ..... 20’
R-10.......20’ ..... 5’ ..... 15’ ..... 20’
* The total of the two side yards. There are variations for corner lot side yards.

Just because you can develop to minimum setbacks does not mean you should. Common sense and a sense of community are always the best guide to setback standards, in Fallonia's humble opinion.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

"New city homes must 'fit better'"

The Atlanta City Council voted unanimously Monday to adopt zoning regulations that are designed to end the era of big houses being built on the sites of previously demolished smaller homes.

Copyright 2007 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

August 21, 2007 Tuesday

New city homes must 'fit better'

Atlanta council's vote keeps developers from building big houses that tower over those already in neighborhood.

The Atlanta City Council voted unanimously Monday to adopt zoning regulations that are designed to end the era of big houses being built on the sites of previously demolished smaller homes.

Developers no longer will be able to build houses that are drastically bigger than others nearby, or which tower over adjacent rooftops because the new house was built on a mound of dirt trucked in to get around a zoning code.

"I think what we're going to see in new home construction in neighborhoods throughout the city are homes that are going to be more compatible and generally fit better into the scale and character of the neighborhood," said city planning Commissioner Steve Cover. "And we can do that without taking away any of the benefits of building homes of the size people want to build."

That concept delights Buckhead resident deLille Anthony. She moved to Buckhead last year, after a big house was built across the street from her former home in Virginia-Highland. No sooner had she moved to Garden Hills than the house across the street was torn down and replaced with two that measure at least 6,500 square feet each.

"I don't want regulations that are so strict people can't do anything on their property, but some of the developers have gone too far," she said.

The zoning ordinance would allow bigger homes on bigger lots and smaller homes on smaller lots, except for two neighborhoods where lots are unusually small, and bigger homes would be allowed. In addition, the ordinance would require that the square footage of basements and attics that can be converted into living areas be counted toward a house's overall square footage. The plan also would prevent a developer from hauling in dirt to create a hill on which to build a house, so that a finished basement could be added later.

Mayor Shirley Franklin is expected to sign the ordinance.

Councilman Jim Maddox commended Councilwoman Mary Norwood for her work to pull together the development community, planners and residents to craft a method to regulate the new houses without thwarting the city's renewal. ...

The information about the zoning changes can be found here.

Fallonia used to say that she did not want Raleigh to turn into another Atlanta, but today, she is rethinking that.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Setbacks: Part II

When you develop to the minimum legal guidelines, then you will see more house and less yard. This new neighborhood is being developed from the ground up to the minimum setbacks. It will have more conformity than some of the surrounding streets because of this visual consistency.

At R-10 or R-6, the minimum side setback is 5 feet, but the combined left and right must be 15 feet. So one house may be 5 feet from the line on one side and 10 feet from the other side. Houses in this zoning will generally have a driveway on the wide side, and no drive on the short side. This means that the minimum spacing between houses could be 10 feet and the the maximum could be 20 feet.

This is what 15 feet looks like:

This is what 10 feet looks like:

When homes are torn down and replaced with structures that conform to the letter of the law, they may not blend with the spirit of the established community.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

What's the deal about setbacks: Part I

As one neighborhood's rezoning effort winds its way thru the process, one word keeps coming up over and over.

The word is Setbacks.

Defined as: Zoning restrictions on the amount of land required surrounding improvements; the amount of space required between the lot line and the building line.

Boring sounding stuff, but it is the one thing that unifies a neighborhood -- more than building style or color.

Setbacks from the street are usually a combination of factors. The minimum setback is set in the zoning, and is in addition to the right of way. In older neighborhoods, the setbacks may be even deeper than the minimum. The tone was set by the orginal development.

Over the years, multiple renovations have occurred in this neighborhood, by respecting the established setbacks, there is a uniformity.

In older neighborhoods, you also see greater setbacks between the side lots than the minimum requirement. In our neighborhood, we call these yards.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Expanding horizons

Comment received by email from JZ, who is concerned about the significant architectural losses in downtown Raleigh:

As we have witnessed the exciting and prosperous changes occurring here in our capital city, there has been tremendous losses left and right.

Lost in the early trickle: Milton Small's Office building at the corner of Davie and McDowell Streets, turned into a parking lot, now presently awaiting the cranes and crews to erect the new Empire Properties venture with the County, "The L-Building".

Recently Lost: A good portion of the 300 Block of Wilmington Street to Phase II of Progress Energy's Real Estate mogulship.

And most upsetting: the soon to be lost: The former First Federal Bank Building, presently known as the Garland Jones Office Building at the corner of Martin and Salisbury Streets, will be razed for the Wake County Courthouse complex. This is the ONLY High-Modern Structure left in the downtown core, and its a specimen of talented design, quality materials and quality care.

The historic Dillon warehouses will be sacrificed to accommodate the potential future TTA rail line and stations destroying the "West End Warehouse District". This district has been conveniently renamed the "Depot District" because that will be the only building left after the west side improves. And Ted Reynolds will sacrifice the distinguished structure, presently occupied by the Raleigh Police Department at the corner of Hillsborough and Dawson Streets once he gets underway with his high-rise development on that block.

JZ is encouraging OTT to broaden awareness to include the developments in the commercial areas ITB.

Want to know what the fuss is about? Start here.

An archeological dig of our landfill may reveal some astounding relics if we keep this up.

Over the Top Awards will return

Fallonia is suffering from camera failure at this very moment and cannot post the mahvelous candidates for the July and August Over the Top awards right here from our own Raleigh. But you can ...

Email me your pictures and ideas and we will consider them for future posts. Confidentiality assured.

Tell me again . . .

Washington | Chat Plus
Sunday, August 12, 2007; Page F05

Real estate editor Maryann Haggerty and columnist Elizabeth Razzi respond to a question submitted in a recent online chat.

Q | Arlington: What are your thoughts on tear-downs in the area? It seems that builders are paying $700,000 for a house to tear down and are building houses that sell for $1.2 million. Do you feel there is adequate value in these homes? For example, more space and fewer problems with a new home vs. a 60-year-old home?

A | Maryann Haggerty: Tear-downs were one of the most controversial manifestations of the housing boom; many people hate the way they change the feel of older neighborhoods. I'm sure they have slowed down along with the rest of sales, but I know they continue in some places. No one is making any more land in close-in neighborhoods, and the builder wasn't paying $700,000 for the house. He was paying that for the land.

Q | There used to be an informal rule that, to preserve your investment, you should never own the most expensive house on a block. Is that still the case?

A | Elizabeth Razzi: Some in-fill houses, built in place of tear-downs, fit beautifully with their neighborhoods. Others are so oversized or hideous that you can only feel for the neighbors who have to look at them. And I've seen several in-fill homes languish on the market because they cost twice as much as surrounding houses. Few people spending $1 million on a new house really want to live in a $500,000 neighborhood. But if several of those million-dollar homes go up, buyers come to see it as a more-expensive address, and later tear-downs become less risky.

New homes offer more space and fashionable amenities, but they don't necessarily have fewer problems. If older houses have been maintained well and updated periodically, they can give less trouble than a new, untested house. But without regular maintenance and updating, houses and even neighborhoods grow shabby and obsolete, and a round of thoughtfully designed, well-built infill construction and rehabs can be an improvement. ...

Got that?

Few people spending $1 million on a new house really want to live in a $500,000 neighborhood. But if several of those million-dollar homes go up, buyers come to see it as a more-expensive address, and later tear-downs become less risky.

Translation: tear-downs less risky means preserving existing homes more risky.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Er Um What?

Pros, cons of smart growth debated | Elizabeth City News Online
Saturday, May 26, 2007

CAMDEN NC — With Camden officials still undecided about whether to incorporate "smart growth" principles into future planning decisions, commissioners heard from two policy think tanks this week that hold very different views about the proposal's effectiveness.

On Monday, officials with the Washington, D.C.-based Smart Growth Institute made the argument for smart growth principles, telling commissioners that the policy allows for concentrated growth while reducing the potential for sprawl.

The next night, representatives of the N.C. Farm Bureau and the conservative-leaning John Locke Foundation spoke against the proposal, telling commissioners that it would hurt farmers' ability to sell their land and be an unnecessary limit on developers' freedom.

At issue is an ordinance drawn up by Camden Planning Director Dan Porter that aims to concentrate denser housing development in the county's three "core villages" — Camden Courthouse, South Mills and Shiloh — while restricting it in many other parts of the county. According to Porter's proposal, development outside of the core villages would be limited to one home for every 10 acres.

Porter's "smart growth" ordinance originally was intended to be in place by the time Camden's moratorium on new subdivisions ended. But the measure expired in April with commissioners still divided about some aspects of the proposal.

During his presentation to commissioners Monday, the Smart Growth Institute's Benjamin de la Pena said concentrating growth in three areas would allow Camden to reduce the potential for sprawl while protecting more open space for recreational use. Smart-growth communities are also better for the environment because they encourage businesses and residential areas to locate within walking distance, thereby reducing residents' need to drive.

Smart growth allows a community "to enjoy the benefits of growth without having to sacrifice the whole community," de la Pena said.

Susan Weaver, also of the Smart Growth Institute, said concentrating growth would help preserve Camden's agricultural heritage.

"You have to ask yourself a question: Do we want to keep agriculture as part of Camden County? If we keep gobbling it up in one acre lots, at some point you are going to have parcels that are no longer economical to farm."

Several commissioners still appeared skeptical, however.

"The problem is those core areas will be overdeveloped," Carolyn Riggs said.

Riggs said she likes the idea of compact development, but would prefer that it not be restricted to just the three areas.

De la Pena said the Smart Growth Institute had not talked about where denser growth in Camden should go.

"That's a decision you have to make," he said.

On Tuesday night, Chad Adams and Michael Sanera of the John Locke Foundation argued that smart growth policies "limit freedom" and "don't like cars."

Adams also said the high residential densities associated with smart growth policies create environments where it is "increasingly difficult to conduct business." And, notwithstanding the warnings about sprawl, Camden is likely to remain a sparsely populated county for some time to come, he said.

"The projected density for your county in 2030 is supposed to be 65 people per square mile. In Pasquotank County it will be 227 (people per square mile) in 2030," Adams said. "Wake County is 917 people per square mile. (It) will be about 1688 in 2030."

The John Locke Foundation also claims that cities in the state like Wilmington and Asheville that have adopted smart-growth policies have seen marked increases in property values but no similar impact on household incomes.

Steve Woods of the N.C. Farm Bureau also addressed commissioners. He said the group is concerned that smart-growth policies restrict farmers' ability to sell their land.

"If you can only sell 10-acre plots that policy robs farmers of an investment and makes their land less valuable," Woods said.

Camden commissioners are likely to consider Porter's smart-growth ordinance at their next meeting on June 4.

(Contact David Macaulay at

Let's see now, sprawl harms agriculture, so the town is attempting to guide growth so that agriculture remains viable, so the farmers are upset with the town for trying to guide growth.

I got it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

From the N&O forum . . .

At long last, a real discussion of issues has begun.

Submitted by mimosa on August 13, 2007 - 12:31am.

Even when trees are being tagged to be saved by the demolition crew and the home builders, the protection fences often are not placed far enough away from the trees to do much good. Many people believe if the fencing includes the trees' driplines then the trees are protected. However, roots expand further than driplines. Many new homeowners will experience the death of older trees on their property eight or nine years after purchasing their homes. Are there any developers in the area who consult with arborists prior to demolition and construction within an infill environment?

Another question . . . What precautions are taken when demolitions occur, especially in the infill areas where there is already a density of homes? In homes built prior to 1978, asbestos and lead paint are present. How many demolitions are occurring where water is being used to continuously wet the materials as the older homes are being demolished? In the recent NYC pipe explosion it was said that the steam from the pipes kept the asbestos from becoming airborne. So does that mean if water is not part of the demolition process, then surrounding property owners and their families are being exposed to hazardous pollutants coming from the demolition site?

What are the regulations in Wake County and North Carolina concerning demolitions? Are people who are doing the demolition work required to be licensed or can a builder subcontract the work? Are the workers required to use protective gear? Is there a washdown area for the workers so they will not take home hazardous materials on their clothes and shoes?

While many of the new homes are being built "green," are builders and community leaders stressing a "green" safe environment for nearby neighbors? And is that same concern being stressed for the demolition and construction crews who are onsite and the most at risk?

Anyone want to answer this?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Danger, Will Robinson!

With baby boomers soon ready to retire and the state's population growth stagnating, who will be around to buy our houses when we're finally ready to sell? Experts predict a dangerous glut in real estate inventory is possible -but there is some hope.

By MARY CARMICHAEL | March 25, 2007 |

Bill McInerney had a million-dollar house, and he hated it. The 1½-acre lot that constantly needed raking and mowing and shoveling, the multiple bedrooms and big kitchen that were too much for one person, the half-hour commute from Dedham to downtown Boston –none of it suited him. He didn‟t even like the quiet. “I‟m a city boy,”he says. “I want to hear cars and fire trucks and ambulances.”So a little more than a year ago, approaching his 60s and rattling around the halls alone, he started thinking small. McInerney found a one-bedroom apartment in Brookline under the shadow of the Citgo sign, a “lower end”place in the high $300,000s that he nonetheless loved for its location, with “13 restaurants and the streetcar right across the street.”He sold his white elephant in Dedham to a family of seven for a little under a million, “just as the real estate market started to go down the tubes.”He never wants to live in a big house again, he says, and he doesn‟t miss his old one either.

He may be lucky he sold when he did. The 57-year-old is at the older end of the baby boom generation, which is now between 42 and 61. Most boomers will partially or fully retire in the next two decades, and as their lifestyle slows down, so will their desire for the huge houses the wealthier of them have been snapping up in the past few years. Many will have the same idea as McInerney –to unload those houses –which means the number of McMansions for sale is about to get super-sized.

But who‟s going to buy? Generation X, a.k.a. the baby bust, is largely uninterested in sprawling suburban homes. And there aren‟t nearly as many Xers as there are boomers. There just won‟t be enough potential buyers unless the Xers and the older members of Generation Y are joined by a flood of new immigrants who both want the boomers‟ houses and are able to pay for them. If that doesn‟t happen, prices at the high end will sink.

The article, found here provides data and analysis and background (i.e. context) for these points. In short, we are being shortsighted, and allowing our communities to be made LESS viable in the long term, by not paying greater attention to current building trends.

If there‟s no way to save those boomer houses (and thus those boomer retirement funds), is there at least some way to make sure that prices for the smaller homes don‟t go skyrocketing past the means of the middle class? “What we really need [more of] is three-bedroom, 1½-bath homes, the kind that were built for the returning vets after World War II,” says O‟Connell. Here, then, is a possible future role for the home builders who are starting to see the market for “faux chateaux” evaporate: They could redirect their efforts into building more modest homes.

But wait, there's more:

There‟s just one problem, adds O‟Connell: “Those homes are the most difficult to build, because the community doesn‟t want them.” Wealthy homeowners who fund local school districts with their property taxes usually don‟t want to open their neighborhoods to lower-income parents, who would reap the benefits of good schools while paying comparatively less for them in taxes. “Nobody,” says O‟Connell, “wants to educate those kids.” In the long run, though, says Myers, opening up might be the only viable long-term strategy that could save the big houses. Better-educated kids grow up to be richer (read: home-buying) adults. In his new book, Myers writes that by paying for public education now, the rich can create a more prosperous class of home buyers for the future. So far, though, he says, “they don‟t get it, even if it is in their best interest.”

Time to wake up, Wake County.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A New Kind of Infill

As the wooded areas that have sprung up in the older neighborhoods are destroyed to make way for more brick and mortar, the animals that have re-habituated themselves are uprooted again. It has been like living in the country as the old forests have matured over here, and the wildlife has come with it. This picture is from an ITB backyard, new development in the background.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

In an article dated August 6 in the Charlotte Observer Charlotte wrestles with preservation issues in the older neighborhoods.

The names change, the story is the same.

Old neighborhood, long term residents, new interest in the the land because if its charm and location. Homes that are much larger than the original neighborhood plan are built, they change the character of the neighborhood and affect the neighbors property. Some residents get concerned that they could lose this historic neighborhood to this redevelopment boom. Start looking at options. Other people get excited and invest in a rising market. Old settled neighborhood begins to look a bit unsettled.

As the Observer stated it:

Today Americans seek more space than their parents. In new developments bigger homes can be built without hindrances.

But the desire for more space creates a tension in some older neighborhoods, built for the needs of the past. Neighbors there find themselves walking a line between preserving the past and maintaining property rights, promoting growth yet controlling how it takes shape.

Preserving character

Big renovations or teardowns can remove trees as homes take up bigger footprints on their lots. Taller houses can block sunshine or change the streetscape as they supersize. But homeowners have rights, too. And renovations can help boost a community's property values and may get rid of dilapidated buildings retrofitted with nonhistoric touches such as aluminum siding.

And some additional development in existing neighborhoods increases density, reducing the need for more new, sprawling subdivisions that claim undeveloped land on the edge of the city.

On both side of the issue, it creates strains on neighborhood relationships.

What to do?

... historic designations aren't enough. In Plaza-Midwood, the historic district covers a small area of the broader neighborhood, said resident Krista Murphy.

"People are buying the old, little bungalows and putting up these 3,800-square-foot homes that aren't in keeping with the neighborhood," Murphy said. "A lot of us moved here because of the character of the neighborhood, and a lot of the character is being torn down."

So in Charlotte, a new idea surfaced. A community center was the site for a neighborhood association meeting which featured education and information. Tim Griffin, president of the association, invited architects, builders, bankers and other professionals to demonstrate how to renovate and maintain the feeling of the neighborhood. His idea is to inspire. "I'm just so adamant about no more McMansions," he said. "We're not a homeowners' association. We're not a historic district. So the next best thing is to educate."

According to the article, "residents from older communities around uptown have joined forces as Save Our Older Neighborhoods to share ideas on how to preserve their feel and character." I like their acronym.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Civics 101

pay attention • show up • get involved

I found this to be an informative post on a nearby blog (

Opportunities with City Commissions

The Planning Commission is already settled. Expect development interests to play a large part in the City's future. But there are plenty of places to plug in for the interested resident. Also, the Raleigh CAC meetings are held regularly in a neighborhood near you.

Raleigh City Council

Raleigh Planning Commission

Raleigh Neighborhoods

City links will allow you to watch meeting videos online to get a feel for city deliberations, or read the minutes. The City has a top-notch website that informs for engagement in person or from a distance. The RTN network will even allow online viewing of meetings in progress. Our city's culture counts on a connected citizenry. Our city needs you....

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Anytown USA

An assistant village manager, cites the ... subdivision ... as an example of the effect the redevelopment has had on property values.

“It’s an older development built after World War II,” he said. “Instead of moving, property owners are deciding to put additions on their properties.”

The story continues:

... While it hasn’t happened in great numbers yet, village officials are bracing for an increase in teardowns once the real estate market improves and the redevelopment is complete.

“You see it right now in [Neighborhood A] with the two- and three-bedroom ranches coming down and $800,000 homes going up,” ... said. “ [Neighborhood B] is a much more modest community.”

While teardowns have been adamantly opposed by many residents of [Neighborhood A], [Neighborhood B] officials are working on the issue before it becomes a problem.

“As far as teardowns we’re trying to get ahead of the code. We’re going to be looking at our ordinances over the next six months. It would not be a teardown ordinance but a redevelopment ordinance.

“We want to encourage people to improve their property but still have some control so we don’t get McMansions on a (small) lot." “It’s a delicate balance between property rights and zoning.”