Thursday, January 31, 2008

Over the Top Award for January 2008




This month's OTT award goes to No Oaks on Claremont.

Just when you think the top has been reached, along comes another contender. We at OTT have been concerned for sometime about the "gone wild" effect that the redevelopment on Claremont has stirred. In previous posts, we have highlighted the contrast that the riverhouse and showboat style homes bring to a street where new homes have already been built in an updated craftsman design. A lovely house, I am sure, but the location on a .38 acre wedge in an R-6 neighborhood seems odd, at best.

R-6 / .38 acres
Deed Date 9/26/2007 Pkg Sale Price $395,000
Heated Area 1,212

Assessed Value
Land Value Assessed $261,000
Bldg. Value Assessed $119,111
Total Value Assessed $380,111




It is important to note that the house getting the squeeze next door is now assessed at less than the purchase price of this property. Their land is now twice that of their house. Do you think they have a chance to get fair market value for their house and land?

I believe the compensation for their eventual sale would be higher if there were bigger and better homes on either side, which would mean their house would have real value. These ultra large new houses (on their right, on their left, and in front, and behind) are grossly impacting this resident's right to enjoyment of their investment. I can only conclude that we cannot count on others to do the right thing, therefore some zoning ordinances need adjusting so that in-town neighborhoods can enjoy orderly and predictable changes that enhance their neighborhoods. From that, all people profit; from this, one person's profit is someone else's loss.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Here's a Shockaruinee



And here is your home in your newly revitalized neighborhood. Click to enlarge for detail.


I agree with the importance of property rights. It's just that I believe strongly that one individual does not have the right to significantly impact and adversely affect another person’s right to the enjoyment of their home, and neighborhood. There is a property line separating each of us from our neighbors. It does not have to be a chasm. We are closer than one may think.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Close your eyes and it will go away?



This is the first paragraph of the Infill Housing Study on Residential Scale in Atlanta Georgia. Seems to get to the point, yes? Today's N&O article has this quote:

The most contentious issue before the council has become what to do about tear-downs, the practice of replacing an existing home with a much larger one. Developers, real estate agents and homeowners who oppose restrictions have been hostile to council members who want to slow the practice.

The council has a hearing April 15 to discuss speeding the creation of neighborhood conservation overlay districts, which set standards for construction. But Councilman Russ Stephenson's plan to create a citizen study group has been criticized by people who question how big a problem tear-downs really are.


Well, if they were not so big, you could close your eyes, but to deny the problem requires a pretty expensive blinder.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sign of the Times



Your street, too, could look like this.

Please consider our virtual yardsign campaign, for a quieter streetscape.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Respect4Raleigh



Respect4Raleigh 2008

The ongoing debate about what is considered appropriate residential development in old ITB Raleigh is spilling over into the public realm, which is where it needs to be heard. Since Fallonia is such a hyper-vigilant observer of this phenom, she has observed that the louder voices usually get heard, and the reasonable quieter voices are left out of the debate.

So, FP is starting an online petition drive so that everyone can be heard on this topic. Please send it to everyone you know who is interested in this vital issue. It is hoped this document can be used to present to the City the weight of concern in our neighborhoods. Name masking for the web preview is available.

Thanks for your faithful readership, here is a chance to translate concern to action.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Horror in the Hamptons


Raising the Roof Over House Size

Speakers like limits but say a ‘behemoth’ may be in the eye of the beholder

A trend toward large houses, even on small lots, has prompted a new East Hampton Town law that would restrict their size. Dozens spoke at a hearing on the proposal on Friday.

By Joanne Pilgrim | The East Hampton Star
(1/24/2008) A hearing on Friday on a proposed law placing much tighter limits on the size of houses that could be built in East Hampton drew a room full of people to Town Hall and lasted over four hours as nearly 40 speakers weighed in.

Most agreed with the objective — to protect the character of East Hampton by ruling out overbuilt McMansions that loom over other houses. However, many feared the law could hurt property owners, people who rely on the construction economy, and tax revenues. Several speakers urged the board to more carefully analyze and redraft the law.

The proposal is to limit the size of a house to 12 percent of the lot size, plus 1,000 square feet. Considering how broad its impact would be, many people said each and every property owner should have been notified by the town of the proposal. Legally, only zoning district changes require mailed notices to individual property owners; otherwise the town notifies residents of pending legislation through published legal notices.

The size of a house that may be built is already based on the size of the property, but is expressed as the building’s “footprint.” Two stories of footprint size may be built: For instance, on a half-acre lot an 4,000-square-foot “footprint” is the maximum, allowing a two-story, 8,000-square-foot house.

Under the new law, the maximum house size, no matter how many stories, would be 3,400 square feet on a half-acre lot. Current setback requirements and an overall maximum house size of 20,000 square feet, throughout the town, would be retained.

Because of the widespread reaction to the proposal, the town board agreed to accept written comments from the public for an additional two weeks, until Friday, Feb. 1.

Members of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee and others have for several years been urging the town board to act, alarmed at the explosion of teardowns and large new houses replacing them in such areas as the lanes south of the highway in Amagansett.

“The invasion of these super-large houses that have taken away the character of our community,” said Betty Mazur of Amagansett at Friday’s hearing, amount to “a mass case of identity theft.”

“We do not want inappropriate development to hurt the place that we love the most,” said Joan Tulp, a member of the Amagansett Village Improvement Society.

The proposed legislation grew from the efforts of a committee including Town Supervisor Bill McGintee, Don Sharkey, the chief building inspector, Marguerite Wolffsohn, the town planning director, Frank Dalene of the Long Island Builders Institute, Greg Zwirko, an architect, a town attorney, and representatives of the citizens advisory committees of Montauk, Amagansett, and East Hampton.

First to speak at Friday’s hearing were a number of attorneys who, with clients in mind, had investigated various impacts of the law and called the board’s attention to a number of them that they suggested had not been fully considered.

One lawyer, Christopher Kelley, said the legislation took “a broad-brush approach where perhaps a more refined surgical approach would be more appropriate.” The law, he said, does not distinguish between areas of East Hampton where overbuilding is a problem and where it is not.

Mr. McGintee said, however, that neighbors have been concerned about oversized houses not only in Amagansett but also in areas like Ditch Plain in Montauk and Maidstone Park.

Mr. Kelley laid out four suggestions with which a number of subsequent speakers concurred.

House size limits should be tied to the minimum lot size of a zoning district, he said, rather than to the actual size of a lot. That would address an inequity for the owners of lots in a clustered subdivision, whose properties would have been larger if the town had not attempted to preserve as much open space as possible by making them small.

Second, he said, property owners who have already obtained building permits for renovations to houses that do not comply with the new rules should be exempt.

Many speakers echoed Mr. Kelley’s third recommendation, that the property size on which house size is based should include protected easements, common driveways, and the like — in other words, all land within the lot’s boundaries. Large portions of some lots contain dunes or wetlands, said Richard Whalen, also an attorney, who called the law “over all . . . very reasonable.”

Mr. Kelley’s final point, that the law may be inappropriate in some areas, was also echoed by many other speakers. He noted that in Amagansett’s historic district, for instance, large houses are the community’s character. On other properties, he said, such as flag lot or wooded acreage, a large house “may have no visual impact from the road, or no impact on its neighbors.”

Mr. Kelley proposed that the law provide a way for property owners to get exemptions from the building inspector instead of having to apply to the zoning board, which, he said, is time-consuming and often costly.

“This law is saying to people it’s better if you subdivide,” said Bill Esseks, representing Ron Baron, who bought 41 acres on Further Lane in East Hampton. He suggested having lawyers representing property owners meet with the town board “and see if you can’t come up with a formula that works for everybody.”

Ken Silverman, an Amagansett resident who said he thought the law “kind of reasonable,” urged the town board to re-examine its particulars, adding that “when you have Chris Kelley and Bill Esseks agreeing on something, I think you should take it seriously.”

An “unintended consequence” of the proposed law, said Richard Hammer, another lawyer, could be that property owners who were not permitted to add on to their houses would build “detached accessory structures” instead. “Is that worse or better than having it attached?” he asked.

Like many others, Mr. Hammer agreed with the principle of the proposed law, but said the issue was “more an argument about mass” than square footage. He suggested that a panel of architects, land planners, and members of the Architectural Review Board could find a way to “characterize volume” and write limits into the law.

Mr. McGintee said the committee had examined approaches to building height and visual mass versus actual size, but found the solutions unworkable. The committee will reconvene to look at other solutions along the same lines, he said Tuesday, before the town board discusses the comments made at Friday’s hearing.

Jennifer Hartnagel of the Group for the East End expressed the group’s support for the law, but acknowledged some fine-tuning may be needed.

Bill Crain, who heads the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, said the law will “help to maintain the rustic, natural beauty. There’s a need for a shift in values,” he said. “There’s a growing recognition of the need to live more simply.”

Also expressing support were members of the Amagansett Citizens Advisory Committee and Ed Porco of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk, who added, however, that there are questions to be addressed.

“One of the reasons people come here is to be with nature,” Carol Morrison of Montauk said in support of the law. “People bring their ideas from other places. What you build and live in here is different.”

Larry Cantwell, the East Hampton Village administrator, showed up at the hearing to “encourage” the town board. If previous officials had not had the courage to enact groundbreaking zoning rules, he said, “a lot of us probably wouldn’t want to live here any more. For all that has been accomplished here . . . if we don’t take the steps that you’re discussing here today, we’re going to be Garden City anyway.”

But Jeannette Schwagerl and her husband, Robert Schwagerl, residents of Amagansett, expressed vehement opposition — to applause. The new law, she said, would be “too drastic of a change. The town’s overly restrictive proposal impairs a lot of people’s plans and dreams, and should not be enacted hastily.”

“Limiting living space is more of a lifestyle regulation than an architectural regulation,” she said. “Merely controlling gross floor space may still allow for a large visual mass . . . and large bulk.”

“This legislation is taking a sledgehammer to my ability to build a house that’s comfortable for my family,” Peter Mendelman said. “It’s really hard to get a small fixer-upper and renovate it for a family, and this legislation makes it practically impossible.”

The Amagansett residents who pushed for the law, he said, should “solve their own problems without attacking me. People who live south of the highway in multimillion-dollar houses do not represent the working families of Springs. I don’t think, even in these hearings, you get the full flavor of people who have to work for a living,” he told the board.

His brother, Mark Mendelman, also spoke. “I 100-percent support the goal of preserving the natural beauty and the character of this town,” he said. He added, however, that “this legislation will stifle my dreams,” and “adds to an already long list of limits to what a homeowner can do.”

Others questioned whether the town board had fully considered all the economic ramifications the law could have.

“The Town of East Hampton is driven economically by the people who happen to have some money, from working or because they inherited it, and they’re really not interested in living in a house that’s only 3,500 square feet,” Roy Parker said.

Mr. Parker said that he had looked at the houses in the historic district in East Hampton Village, which enacted a similar house size restriction, and found that “not one of the houses there could be rebuilt under current regulations, and yet the people wanted to preserve them.”

“The underlying value of our real estate is the house that can be built on it,” said Kevin Conboy, a real estate broker. “This is a complicated situation. Everybody in the room has the same goal, to protect the community. But we have to balance the economics,” he said.

He suggested more architectural review rather than overall size restrictions, saying, “There’s nothing wrong with a 5,000-square-foot house if it’s in keeping with the community.”

“The value of taxable assets throughout the town will be lowered under this proposal,” said Dominick Stanzione of Amagansett. “If the town wants to preserve the visual character of a neighborhood, then maybe they should pay for those development rights.”

“I feel that I am being selectively taxed or hurt by this,” said John Talmage, who owns land in East Hampton but hasn’t built on it yet.

“Property values are heavily dictated by the beauty of the area,” Mr. Crain said. “If we allow all these, I’ll say ugly McMansions, to pile up, who is going to want to live in a place like this?”

Speaking for the East Hampton Business Alliance, Margaret Turner, the group’s executive director, said the proposal poses “way too many unknowns.” In a letter submitted to the board on behalf of the organization, she delineated its concerns, including how limiting building will affect the different workers in the building industry, banks, and revenues for the Community Preservation Fund and school districts.

“Real estate is a major revenue producer for the town,” Ms. Turner read aloud. “There is a slowing economy, especially in the real estate market. Will limiting renovations and expansions slow sales down even more?”

The law is “not taking into account what something that’s well-designed can look like,” said Jennifer D’Auria, a real estate broker, whose husband is an architect. If the intent is to soften the “visual mass” of buildings, she suggested it could be accomplished in other ways.

“It’s not just the beauty of our environment. . . . Yes, buy the open spaces, preserve the fields,” she said. “But beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

“We’re heading into a recession,” she noted. The Mendelman brothers, she said to the board, “are really appealing to you to not take away their rights. If you restrict their ability to improve, and to live within those four walls — I find that just un-American. You have to respect people’s rights — they’ve made investments. And maybe they’re not going to be able to build a house that meets their needs.”
--
The East Hampton Star

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How to Solve an Infill Problem



Atlanta Georgia is an example.

Be sure to revisit their web sites for more information. Many links can be found here at OTT.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tearing It Up

newraleigh.com has a hard hitting post today on a local brassroots pro-development organization. Oddly, I ran into it by finding it reposted on a distant blog, one that was given as a "for more info" link on the RR site. Guess they will need to rethink that when they renew and revitalize their web message. It is getting old already.

ADDENDUM: January 23. The distant blog has removed the article.

The Truth about Teardowns

With the help of the City, by way of lack of help for the neighborhoods who are begging for infill standards, the redevelopment of older neighborhoods into high priced enclaves will continue with NO regard to the character that has made this part of town the desirable, charming place that people have loved all these decades. This love is from within and from afar.

Renewal is a concept needed for places that lack vitality. Rebuilding is a concept needed in places that are being disposed of.

Over here in Fallonia Central, we have prided ourselves on the mix of homes and eras and people we call our neighborhood. You see, this part of Raleigh was actually designed that way. Professional and business owners on the mainline, and those fine people who worked or provided services for these living on the side streets. We are suffering from rich creep over here, as the mansions slip down hill into the more modest, smaller lot streets. Can we still live side by side, or is this beginning of the end?

FP has spent considerable time on the Wake Co Prop site and has this answer to the question. 80% of the recent home sales in this neighborhood list a commercial buyer, or an absentee homeowner. This is not a good sign for neighborhood stability. The days of the private buyer picking a home they want in a neighborhood they like are ending. No one who buys over here today has any idea what this neighborhood will be like in the next 5 years.

So, where will all that charm people love to see ITB be found?

The landfill, of course.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reader's Post



In an N&O article in the past couple of months or so there was mention that the total number of infill projects inside the beltline was about 600 or so since 2002. I think it would be interesting for the City to send out a survey to each of those infill projects as well as the homes on either side. The survey to the new project could ask the new owners if they had consulted with their new neighbors about what they were going to build, and what kind of reception they received. Each of the neighbors would also receive a survey asking questions about their perceptions about the new house next door. Anonymity would have to be guaranteed, but for the purposes of the city, the surveys would have a single identifying number that could be tied back to the individual properties. The only thing the public survey would show are comments by both the new home owners and the adjacent two (maybe more? )neighbors.

This kind of survey, I hope, would show if there really was a major problem with infill. Are the complaints broad or are they generated by only a few situations? For example, if the complaints are generated by less than 10 projects out of the total 600 or so, is there really a need to do anything?

In addition to the survey, I would like to suggest another idea for the short and near term that might help in coming up with a solution for the infill issue. What about setting up a Commission that would meet twice per month to review and comment on any infill projects. The Commission would be made up of architects, builders and neighborhood residents. The Commission members would comment on issues of scale, setbacks, design, etc. There would be a vote but it would be non-binding on the individual(s) who is proposing the infill development.

I think this would be a good way to accomplish at least three objectives. One, it would give this issue a higher public profile and thereby a greater and more sustained level of discussion. Second, the peer review and the pressure it may bring on a project might help it become better for the neighborhood. In addition, this peer review group may generate idea that could become useful in crafting a reasonable set of regulations if a survey shows a definite need for some type of action.

Robert M

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mixing it up


I just love the wordplay on this title. Exactly what is going on in that bathroom?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Raleigh Needs Renewing?

I am still puzzled by this idea.

If we do renew then we are

Rewarding families and individuals on fixed incomes with increased property values, providing a more secure---and predictable---financial future;

and if we restrict the renewal of Raleigh we will
Impact senior citizens and working families by significantly reducing the appreciation of their homes which they are relying on to move to the next stage of life.—www.RenewRaleigh.org


Excusez-moi, but Fallonia was planning to live in her home in her next stage of life. But she just can't figure out how she will afford to stay in a million dollar neighborhood.

But stay she will. It is her property right to use her land any way she wants.

Even if it will:
Result in the potential loss of countless jobs that rely on the residential construction industry. The impact will eventually trickle all the way down to the local dry cleaners.


She knows how to hand wash.

PS: did they really suggest it was time for some "to move to the next stage of life."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Back to the Future, Raleigh

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF THE COMPREHENSIVE PLANNING COMMITTEE

1. MP-2-07 – Forty Wade Sign Criteria

The Committee recommends that the City Council approve the unified sign criteria dated September 10, 2007 and revised January 15, 2008, in accordance with the conditions of the approved Master Plan MP-2-07, with the following additional language:

a. Signs B2 through B12 are allowed a maximum height of 7-1/4 feet with a maximum area of 30 square feet, but 36-inch tall signs are allowed a maximum area of 50 square feet.

b. Sign B1 is allowed a maximum height of 10 feet, with a 10% increase allowed subject to Planning staff approval pending final design.

2. Residential Infill Development Proposals

With regard to the Planning Department Proposal to Address Residential Infill Development dated December 5, 2007 the Committee recommends the City Council:

a. Remove Options 1 and 2 from further consideration.

b. Move forward with a text change as outlined in Option 3 to expedite the Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCOD) process.

The Committee also recommends the City Council for a stakeholder-based Infill Study Group to review best practices in other cities and develop recommendations that address as many stakeholder concerns as possible.

a. Membership – each side would appoint three (plus or minus) members to the group. The qualifications would be (1) a commitment to work toward a mutually acceptable outcome and (2) a commitment to not let feelings of righteous indignation enter into the conversation. In addition, the group would have a planning staffer to provide support, including researching and presenting best practices from other cities. Finally, the group would have a facilitator/leader who would run the meetings and report to the Comprehensive Planning Committee (CPC). Former Planning Commission Chair Dickie Thompson has tentatively agreed to serve in this capacity and has received broad support.

b. Schedule – The Study Group should adopt a schedule that returns recommendations to the CPC and full Council in time to advertise for the July 15 public hearing. If the Study Group moves quickly to resolution, it is possible that they could present recommendations in time to advertise for the April 15 public hearing. The Study Group leader would provide a progress back to the CPC every four weeks (plus or minus). In addition, the CPC may wish to set a deadline for receiving recommendations.

c. The Infill Study Group shall work with the City Planning Department to refine the scope, timeline, roles and responsibilities of the participants involved.


3. Items Pending

Item #03-14 – Downtown Master Developer Process (4/6/04)
Item #03-29 – Development Standards – Fragile Neighborhoods (6/1/04)
Item #03-79 – TC-10-05 – Surfacing Requirements of Existing Front Yard
Parking for Single Family Detached and Duplex Dwellings
(4/19/05)
Item #03-102 – Conservation Management for Ponds and Lakes (11/15/05)
Item #05-41 – Pawn Shops – Regulations for Location (10/3/06)
Item #05-42 – Sustainable Urban Landscapes and Hillsides (11/21/06)
Item #07-02 – TC-5-07 – O&I Districts/FAR/Density Limitations (12/4/07)
Item #07-03 – Text Change – Prohibit Industrial Facilities in Residential Areas
(12/4/07)
Item #07-05 – Conservation Management/Tree Conservation Requirement (12/4/07)
Item #07-06 – City-Initiated ETJ Extensions – Zoning Classifications (12/4/07)
Item #07-07 – Annexation Policy/ETJ Extension (1/8/08)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

More from Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain

Congratulations to Ranch Acres Neighborhood!

The Ranch Acres Neighborhood has been officially named a Historic District and has joined a select group of Tulsa neighborhoods listed in the National Register of Historic Places, which is our nation’s list of historic places worthy of preservation. Tulsa now has 14 listed historic districts, but what sets Ranch Acres apart is its post-WWII architecture.

...

Ranch Acres originally was designed as a luxury neighborhood mainly for young professionals, according to the Historical Society.

The neighborhood consists of ranch-style homes built between 1949 and 1962.

“The listing of properties in the national register helps us to document all aspects of our heritage and helps us to identify a variety of kinds of architecture,” said Melvena Heisch, the deputy state history preservation officer.

The inclusion of Ranch Acres marks the first time a post-World War II residential district in Tulsa has been named to the National Register, according to the Historical Society.

The listing of a property recognizes its significance in history, architecture, archaeology or engineering, according to the Historical Society. For more information, visit the Tulsa Preservation Commission website.


How about that. Does this mean they are soon to become endangered species?

Links in this story are "live" in the Reader Feeder.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Breaking News

The Comprehensive Planning Committee of the Raleigh City Council met this morning. An infill study group was proposed by Russ Stephenson, and after a time of public comments, the members of the committee voted 3-0 to send it to the City Council for next Tuesdays meeting.

Council group seeks peace on teardowns

BY SARAH LINDENFELD HALL, Staff Writer | Newsobserver.com
A City Council committee wants people on both sides of the debate over new homes in established neighborhoods to get together.
The committee today recommended that the full council organize a study group to look at the trend of tearing down homes in older neighborhoods and replacing them with new ones.

It also wants the council to move forward on a plan to speed up the process to create neighborhood conservation overlay districts. Such districts set standards for new construction in established neighborhoods.

The council will consider the recommendations Tuesday ... .


The rest of the written story is available at the News & Observer.

The rest of the infill story will develop over time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sign of the Times



This is a "modest" project, as these things go; the price is high executive. At its original price of 1.25 million or so, it was CEO. There is a whole lot of house tucked into this .26 acre lot. This price drop is in the same range as the other recent sales on Anderson Drive. Informal research shows that the morethanamillion dollar houses have lay vacant for months and months (and years in some cases) and sell when they have reached a substantial price drop. The current penalty is about $300,000 below asking price after about 6 months.

Ironically, some of the nicer belowamillion dollar houses have sat empty a long time too. Their starting prices are around $750-850K, which makes them moderate in this neck of the woods. With the Oaks up the way in the same price point, there is much competition.

Note to builders: that river-house style home is not cutting it. All three are still empty. Who knew?

But if I see one more faux stone clad traditional transitional with a 3 car garage in the front yard going up, I will swoon.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Zoning, It's the Law

NCGS § 160A‑383. Purposes in view.

Zoning regulations shall be made in accordance with a comprehensive plan...

Zoning regulations shall be designed to promote the public health, safety, and general welfare. To that end, the regulations may address, among other things, the following public purposes: to provide adequate light and air; to prevent the overcrowding of land; to avoid undue concentration of population; to lessen congestion in the streets; to secure safety from fire, panic, and dangers; and to facilitate the efficient and adequate provision of transportation, water, sewerage, schools, parks, and other public requirements. The regulations shall be made with reasonable consideration, among other things, as to the character of the district and its peculiar suitability for particular uses, and with a view to conserving the value of buildings and encouraging the most appropriate use of land throughout such city. (1923, c. 250, s. 3; C.S., s. 2776(t); 1971, c. 698, s. 1; 2005‑426, s. 7(a); 2006‑259, s. 28.)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Equity Anyone

The city does not change the tax value of a new or renovated building until the Certificate of Occupancy is issued. This means that the unsold white elephants are costing the city the proper tax value for that building, while the residents are paying higher tax value because the sale of the land beneath them has raised the land value for the neighborhood.

Sort of like people who pass the line of cars on the highway to merge at the last minute, which ironically causes the line-up in the first place.

Over on Glenwood Avenue, Garage Mahal is for sale for 2.3 mil. The building's tax value is $99,000. How much is this speculation costing the city in productive income? These constructions take years. I count at least 6 houses in the over-a-mil range that are still vacant within several blocks of fallonia-central. A teardown / rebuild could ride undervalued for 2-3 years.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Open Letter to City

Thank you for your attention to the problems of older neighborhoods at [Tuesday's] meeting. Mention was made of looking at other cities' responses. The infill proposal being considered today in Chevy Chase, Md, is attached -- it's rationale matches the concerns of many in Raleigh. It addresses the important character issue and offers incentives for builders to work within this definition.

The NCOD is a fine concept. But you may have noticed in today's meeting that neighborhood protection is a fractious issue. This makes the NCOD a much harder process on the residents. I believe the city needs act clearly and soon with minimum standards for builders "doing business" in our city. If a neighborhood wishes to add more layers of protection, then the NCOD is a great option. Imagine if Fallon Park had been able to file its NCOD last year, we might be in a different place this year ... but we were turned away. This whole effort has been very difficult on our residents.

From the Charlotte Observer, an editorial comparing Charlotte infill standards to Raleigh's (when they thought Raleigh might act on this issue first) stated: "Why should cities care if big, new houses are altering the character of urban neighborhoods? Because those neighborhoods' value is tied to their character, their mix of people and the quality of life they sustain. Lose that, and you've lost more than bungalows and streetscapes."

Just yesterday I visited neighbors on my block and found there is still much concern about both the threats to the character of the neighborhood and the re-evalautions which are inflated by these new million dollar homes on our block. Wes Minton, in the N&O, stated that "The reasons these tax values are up is due to the teardown lot values. A half acre lot is worth $500,000, $600,000, $700,000 ... If this proposal gets approved, your lot is no longer worth that." The converse of this is that our property values and taxes are affected by this land rush and the diversity of our neighborhoods is at stake as well. I have lived in my home 35 years and now face tremendous taxes based on land reevaluations based on speculative real estate activities.

I feel strongly that residents of a neighborhood should not have to take the full measure of responsibility within a township to protect their ability to live in their home. We need the City of Raleigh to take city responsibility for this issue and offer some oversight, guidance and structure. I hope this information will be useful in the coming deliberations.

- - - -

From Maryland Political Watch:

Tuesday, January 08, 2008
New Moratorium Proposed in Town of Chevy Chase

The Town of Chevy Chase will consider a new emergency building moratorium on Wednesday evening during its 7-9pm meeting. The purpose of the proposed moratorium is to stop new construction (except of additions of under 500 sq. ft.) until the Town can adopt the ordinance proposed by the Town's Land Use Committee designed to promote construction compatible with existing homes in the Town.

The crux of the proposed new ordinance is a new limit on floor-to-area ratio (F.A.R.) which allows larger homes on larger lots. The ordinance would also include new height and lot coverage restrictions beyond those already imposed by Montgomery County. The proposed ordinance also contains incentives in the form of permitting a higher F.A.R. for additions to existing homes (rather than teardowns) and for construction that meets certain environmental standards.

I favor both the moratorium and the concept behind the new ordinance. The new ordinance is complex and the Council will need time to consider it carefully and to hold public hearings on it before adoption. At the same time, I hope the Council moves expeditiously to move the process forward and enact the ordinance.

Even if the Council acts quickly on the ordinance, the moratorium is needed because the Town may continue to lose existing homes due to this delay and because the new ordinance has taken longer to enact than expected. If no new construction occurs, then no one is injured by the moratorium but Town residents will feel reassured. Supporters of the new moratorium plan to present a petition in support of it at tomorrow night's Council meeting.

The Town Council can feel safe enacting the moratorium on an emergency basis because of the long-established record in hearings and elections of support for measures like moratorium and the ordinance. This new ordinance represents the culmination of a process begun with the first moratorium.


From Chevy Chase MD Land Use Committee: extracted.
How Can The Town Regulate New Construction to Protect its Traditional Character?
Jakubiak & Associates, in consultation with Studio 27 Architecture and the Land Use Committee, is putting together a proposal designed to ensure that new construction would enhance rather than detract from the Town’s distinct, traditional character. It is recommending that the Town keep its setback laws in place and promote compatible construction by establishing limits on: (1) floor area through a Floor Area Ratio (F.A.R.), (2) height, and (3) lot coverage. Restrictions also would apply to the size of driveways and garages. Under consideration is the adoption of base F.A.R.s, combined with the opportunity to achieve additional floor area by meeting a number of specific objectives. The size of base and total F.A.R.s is still being studied.

A primary objective of this effort is to enable most residents to add onto their existing homes, as they have in the past. The town’s existing houses define its character and their retention should be encouraged. Residents and builders choosing to add on to, rather than demolish and rebuild, will be entitled to a higher base F.A.R. To promote leadership in environmental design, a higher base F.A.R. may also be available for LEED certified projects (gold or platinum). LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and certification is awarded according to the level of compliance achieved under a nationally accepted green building rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

Residents or builders seeking to build even larger additions or to demolish and build a new house will be eligible for additional floor area, up to a maximum, based on an approach similar to that devised by the USGBC. Additional square footage will be awarded according to the number of points accrued by compliance with a number of items on a laundry list of character-defining and/or pro-environment features, such as limiting paving in the front yard or total lot coverage; preserving or planting new shade trees; breaking up a fa├žade to make a larger house appear smaller; and introducing one story elements, such as a porch. Residents and builders will be able to pick whether and which specific features they want to meet.


Fallonia invites you to submit your letters to the City of Raleigh to post on this site.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Best Thing I've Heard All Week

From a comment on New Raleigh

This is America and the “get off my land” mentality is infused in our culture. That isn’t going to change anytime soon. What we have lost is the means to discuss what responsibilities we have to each other in our contract to live together as a society. -JZ

Saturday, January 5, 2008

More about infill


(Fall 2003)
Infill--Having It All
by Marita H. Gilliam

Of late, the trend to infill-new residential development within established neighborhoods-is picking up speed. Developers and homeowners are racing to find attractive lots inside city limits throughout North Carolina. Suburbanites' return to city living, according to urbanists, has many motives: tree-lined streets with sidewalks, nearby shops, offices, bus stops, schools, churches, movies, and parks. An established neighborhood has all of its infrastructure intact-sewers, power, police, and fire protection. It also has old houses, front porches, alleys, and friendly, walkable neighborhoods.

So what is good infill? I think of it as building a home on a lot previously vacant or on a lot on which the previous house is an eyesore to the neighborhood. The newly built house complements that neighborhood in a variety of ways: architectural style, setback, height, bulk, and other details that make it blend in with the community. But actual infill, in many cases, falls short of this definition, such that some cities want to legislate standards.

Nowhere is this trend more evident than in Raleigh and Charlotte. In fact, Charlotte has gone so far as to develop guidelines for infill. These were written so that infill users could pattern new construction after the old. Are they in use? John Rogers, administrator for Charlotte's Historic District Commission, explains: "Although these guidelines were drafted, they were never made a formal policy by City Council." In Raleigh, citywide infill subdivision standards have been written but not enacted.

Most citizens oppose the idea of being told what to do with their property. As Raleigh senior planner, Watson Brown explains: "Individual property rights supercede all other rules." Thus, developers and owners may choose any number of architectural styles and scales for their infill houses, no matter what the established character of the neighborhood might be. Often they will tear down existing housing when vacant lots are unavailable. As long as there are statutes on the books that prohibit dictating design, except where protective covenants are in place, infill housing will cause controversy.

Hastings Drive in Charlotte is a prime example. Developed in the 1940s within walking distance to Queens College and close to downtown, Hastings is a side street to Queens Road, Charlotte's signature street, and featured one-story ranches with a driveway or a garage at the back of quarter acre lots. Twelve years ago, an interior designer found a vacant lot on Hastings and asked Bobby McAlpine, noted architect from Montgomery, Alabama, to design a home for her. He did so, and the result was the designer's dream: a stuccoed, two-story French town house with a circular drive. That infill house began a trend that has continued on Hastings. It appears that one half of its homes are now infills, achieved by tearing down existing houses. Although McAlpine's design has been softened over time as moss has stained the stucco and plantings have matured, the home, along with another town house, serve as out-of-place bookends to the ranch in between. More sympathetic design, compatible to neighboring houses, might have made these infill homes more cohesive to the neighborhood. ...


This excellent resource article can be read at Preservation North Carolina.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Raleigh Builders' Perspective on your Community

This letter is circulating as a call to arms for this Tuesday's City Council Meeting.

Despite the actions of the Raleigh Planning Commission in December, our City Council is getting ready to force something on every property owner in the City of Raleigh. If you care at all about the value of your home and property, PLEASE let your voice be heard. At the meeting of the Planning Commission in December, there may have been 50 or 60 supporters of our property rights.

It is not enough to write these people an email. You should go to the meeting! The Council has scheduled this meeting on short notice in the middle of the day so that most of us cannot be there. Forward this message to everyone in your address book. The internet is the only way to get people who care about this to stand up and defend our rights as property owners. They have NO BUSINESS telling people what size addition to put on their homes.

Currently the City of Raleigh has CAC's or Citizen Action Committees to review proposed changes in established neighborhoods. However, the City chooses not to utilize this option, as it is too hard to enforce.

Instead, they'd rather create new laws and rules to wrap around the ones they already won't enforce. I for one am sick and tired of having someone who doesn't even live in my neighborhood trying to control my home and my neighborhood. [note from FP: me too]

This effort by Councilmen Thomas Crowder and Russ Stephenson is part of an overall anti-growth message that just a few people want to send to the business community. That message is that growth is bad for Raleigh and that new homes and/or cleaning up and rebuilding old neighborhoods is bad business. This all comes just days after Wake County doubled the value of your property for tax purposes. It will take eight years for them to revalue your homes again, all the while the market value will be declining because people who want to remodel, add-on or tear-down will move to a place where adding on to or replacing old homes is welcome.

PLEASE look into this, write your city council representative, and attend the meeting on Tuesday at 1pm. Your retirement nest egg will definitely be adversely affected.

ALSO, FORWARD THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW!


Fallonia has tried to stay out of the fray, but this letter is over the top, so it is fair game.

Red herrings include FEAR (loss of rights, control, anti-growth) and MONEY (bad business, market value, retirement nest egg) and FREEDOM (restrict your additions or renovations, restrictive regulations). None of this is true. I was amused to see that our neighborhoods need their help in cleaning-up. Freudian slip mayhaps?

What we at OTT-ITB advocate can be summed up in this statement found at Tulsa OK's Preserve Midtown site (whose excellent resources I have been sharing this week).

What is infill?
Infill is new construction that 'fills in' empty lots in areas that are already established. Good infill should "develop seamlessly within an existing urban fabric, balancing, completing, and/or repairing the surrounding sectors." Key considerations are:

"Setback is the distance from the front facade of the house to the steet and should be the same distance as other houses on the street. Height should be compatible with the height of buildings surrounding the lot. Mass pertains to the bulk of the house. It should be similar, rather than wider or longer than its neighbors. Scale of the house's height and width should be compatible with the proportions of other homes in the block. Facade, the face of the house, should not appear flat, nor should it be dominated by a garage. Windows and Doors should emphasize the vertical, taller rather than wider. Roofs should have a pitch, or angle of roof, that is similar to others in the neighborhood."
Glossary of Terms (The Lexicon of the New Urbanism: MCDA, Minneapolis, MN)


If you live in a neighborhood you love in Raleigh, the City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8 at 1 pm, is vitally important to you. This weekend is the perfect time to contact your councilors and let them know your position on Infill Standards. While the matter is being studied in the Planning Department, now is the time for INTERIM measures that will protect your street from irreparable changes until this is sorted out. Please contact the city today and let them know you are concerned. Their addresses are HERE. Be sure to include your name/address/phone so they know you are a resident.

Attending the City Council Meeting is a good civics lesson. Standing room only.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Who you gonna call


from preservemidtown in Tulsa OK.

Warning Signs of a Neighborhood At Risk
Don't get caught by surprise. Some things to look out for: 1. A home is put up for sale. 2. A builder buys the home. 3. A home is needing some maintenance or looks unkept. 4. There is an empty lot. 5. After a builder buys a home, he puts it up for rent. All of these events can lead to teardowns and inappropriate infill. Sometimes, it will include a lot split: two homes are built where one once stood. Join your neighborhood association, draft a covenant with your neighbors and keep vigilant!

Posted by Preserve Midtown / 7/25/2007


So, who are you gonna call if you do not have a viable neighborhood association in your part of older Raleigh.

Let me point you to THIS.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Oklahoma is out of land?

From The Teardown Post, Tulsa Oklahoma:

What’s Wrong With the Current Trend
in New Residential Infill Development?


So, if there are buyers for these new and bigger homes on smaller lots, what’s wrong with this trend? Isn’t this just the free market at work? Many Tulsa residents say there is plenty wrong with it and the National Trust for Historic Preservation agrees with them. Indeed, in 2002, the National Trust designated “Teardowns in Historic Neighborhoods” to its list of 11 Most Endangered Places.

What are the costs of this unrestrained glut of oversized McMansions in Midtown Tulsa? Here are a few:

The fabric, character, and beauty of one of Tulsa’s greatest resources — midtown neighborhoods — are being eroded like a rapidly spreading cancer.

Some – but sadly, not all — of the oversized McMansions being built in Midtown neighborhoods may be otherwise beautiful homes in a more open setting. But crammed onto lots that are far too small to accommodate their bulk, they become unsightly and overwhelming. A good example of this phenomenon is on East 26th Street from Yorktown to Zunis.

The teardown/McMansion craze is destroying cultural and social diversity in Midtown by demolishing affordable middle class and even upper middle class homes in favor of McMansions that only the rich and near rich can afford. Take a drive through the area between East 22nd and 26th Streets and Lewis and Harvard Avenues.

The building of enormous homes on small lots cuts off air circulation and light to their more diminutive neighbors, destroys trees in the urban forest, and creates storm water run-off problems for neighboring homes.
The City loses historic housing stock that is a fundamental part of Tulsa’s history and development. Once gone….it is gone forever.

The oversized homes being built consume excessive amounts of dwindling natural resources to heat, cool, and light them, Teardowns put toxic materials like asbestos, chlordane, and lead paint into the urban air, soil, and sewer system. Teardowns and McMansions are definitely not “green.”


Those who argue that the current trend of residential infill redevelopment increases urban density and supports a more walkable, livable urban environment are ignoring the reality of the redevelopment taking place and oversimplifying what is needed to create their vision of the 21st century urban center. Replacing a more modest home with an oversized home does nothing to increase urban density, promote less use of the automobile, or add to urban livability. Houses that are built to accommodate 3 or 4 motor vehicles are merely adding to the glut of urban automobiles.

It takes infrastructure to create the 21st century walkable city, and this includes improved public transportation and the development of nearby town centers like Brookside and Cherry Street where an array of services and goods are available within walking or biking distance of neighborhoods (Form-based Codes, anyone?).

Likewise, those who assert that private property rights trump everything else still have one foot in the nineteenth century. The concept of land use zoning is itself recognition that the regulation of urban land use is necessary for orderly development. The time has come for neighborhoods to be an integral part of the land use planning that charts their own destiny – a process from which they have too long been excluded in favor of developer interests.

From preservemidtown.com.