Monday, March 31, 2008

Over the Top Award for March 2008

The OTT award for March goes to Entertainer's Paradise on Anderson. Named by its builder, this house is now on the market for 1450 thousand dollars. 

Single Family Property / Bedrooms 5 / Bathrooms 4 / Carrooms 3 / Square Footage 5832 / Lot Size 0.42 acres

Take a stroll up and down the street and you can see what a unique house this is. (Until you meet its inverted twin across the street and down a few.)

View Larger Map

Here is a history of money changing hands for a modest property in a highly desirable area. Stamps divided by 2 equals cash.

% Own / Stamps / Date

ALL / 840.00 / 03-14-2007

ALL / 740.00 / 06-29-2006 (1 back)

ALL / / 04-11-2006 (2 back) *

ALL / 650.00 / 04-11-2006 (3 back) *

* how this works is beyond me.

The flipping fee runs about 45-50 K per.

It took a year for this house to be completed, or 2 years from the first flip to the final house. This is what a settled neighborhood looks like until that time comes.

This builder has 4 lots in play on Anderson Drive. Reports from other established neighborhoods in Raleigh report that each has one or two builders responsible for the lion's share of redevelopment activity. Up on Anderson, there is a lot of door knocking going on -- it is open season for hunting old houses. I am thinking we can rename Anderson Heights to Wakefield Central when they are done.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Teardowns and McMansions Resource Guide

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has updated its website. The resources available from this one resource are indeed close to the one-stop promise.

Teardowns and McMansions Resource Guide

This resource guide is a one-stop-shop for information on teardowns and the tools that are available for use to best manage this trend. Residents in communities experiencing teardowns want to know what they can do and how to do it. The guide shows how various communities have worked to put in place and adopt tools to manage teardowns and retain the character of historic neighborhoods. Communities from across the country are featured and illustrate the process used, including challenges and innovative approaches. Contact information is provided so you can talk directly with local decision makers and experts.

ISSUES: 11 Most Endangered / Community Revitalization / Gulf Coast Recovery / Historic Neighborhood Schools / Smart Growth / Sustainability

Their publications and resources are available from the main page, found here:
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Helping people protect, enhance and enjoy the places that matter to them.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Looking at Raleigh, From the Outside In

From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:

How high will Olympia go?
How high should a city's buildings get?

Should property owners be allowed to tear down a house and put up another one?

Those two hot issues arise from coast to coast when local governments talk about planning. Recent stories in newspapers in Olympia, Wash., and Raleigh, N.C., touched on the two issues, which often spark discussion here in the coastal Florida counties of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte.

Olympia is a great little town that treats lightly the august fact that it is Washington's state capital. State agencies are housed in storefronts, there is a healthy alternative music scene and an annual parade through town called the Procession of the Species.

The parade gives creative people a chance to costume themselves as their favorite creatures (as I recall, there is only one rule -- no rabbits -- because parade originators figured there should be at least one rule). Pictures from the Procession of the Species can be seen here:

Olympia is also home to Evergreen State College, a fine liberal arts college with the geoduck -- a saltwater clam -- as its mascot. The school has no football team to help advance knowledge of the geoduck.There is, however, a geoduck fight song, and I do my part to advance knowledge of the geoduck by proudly wearing the Evergreen t-shirt that was a gift from a friend, then-Olympian Chris OBrion, when I visited that fine city.

Let's get back to building heights and teardowns.

Last Saturday, reported The Olympian's Rolf Boone, "About 130 people, including some who hissed and booed," were shown images of what downtown Olympia will look like if a zoning change is granted to a company that wants buildings 90 feet high and 65 feet high erected on the isthmus -- a narrow spit of land in a city with views of the Olympic mountain range.

The current height limit of 35 feet lets people to see the mountains, pointed out one opponent of higher buildings. That's not an argument of much use to opponents of high buildings in Florida.

In Raleigh, the City Council is pondering whether to create "neighborhood conservation overlay districts, which are seen as a way to regulate teardowns, or the practice of replacing older homes with larger ones," David Bracken reported for the Raleigh News & Observer.

Developer Mark Masengill recently told City Council, "Everyone's property rights should be protected and not regulated by you."

Paul Brandt, who heads a neighborhood council, said, "I do believe that while we need to renew Raleigh, we need to renew Raleigh with respect."

That's an interesting yardstick.

Larry Evans is a Sarasota Herald-Tribune blogger. He can be reached at

Sunday, March 23, 2008

All Gone

View Larger Map

3420 Lewis Farm Rd, Year Blt 1958
Zoning R-4 Acreage .41

Permit Date 12/28/2007
Permit # 0000072042

Deed Date 2/29/2008
Pkg Sale Price $380,000

Heated Area 1,391

Assessed Value
Land Value Assessed $238,500
Bldg. Value Assessed $138,203
Total Value Assessed $376,703

Lot is on north side of Lewis Farm, directly opposite Dellwood.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Real Impact of Impact

Carmel Point

The extraordinary patience of things!
This beautiful place defaced with a crop of suburban houses—
How beautiful when we first beheld it,
Unbroken field of poppy and lupin walled with clean cliffs;
No intrusion but two or three horses pasturing,
Or a few milch cows rubbing their flanks on the outcrop
Now the spoiler has come: does it care?
Not faintly. It has all time. It knows the people are a tide
That swells and in time will ebb, and all
Their works dissolve. Meanwhile the image of the pristine
beauty Lives in the very grain of the granite,
Safe as the endless ocean that climbs our cliff. —As for us:
We must uncenter our minds from ourselves;
We must unhumanize our views a little, and become confident
As the rock and ocean that we were made from.

Poems: "Carmel Point" by Robinson Jeffers
from The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. © Stanford University Press, 1989.
Reprinted by Writer's Almanac with permission.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Teardown of the Week

Two houses have disappeared from Ridge Rd in the past 2 weeks.

This one was moved, we hope to a good use like Builders of Hope.
1324 Ridge Road, built 1955:
Zoning R-4 Acreage .28

Deed Date 8/29/2003
Pkg Sale Price $200,000
Heated Area 1,476

Land Value Assessed $167,375
Bldg. Value Assessed $110,272
Total Value Assessed $277,647

1710 Ridge Rd, built 1953:
Zoning R-4 Acreage .93
Permit Date 1/22/2008
Permit # 0000072556

Deed Date 4/26/2006
Pkg Sale Price $435,000

Heated Area 1,784
Land Value Assessed $391,500
Bldg. Value Assessed $121,175
Total Value Assessed $512,675

View Larger Map

Let's see, 3 x $435K = $1.305M. One house, or 2, or 3.82 houses on this acre?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Cost of Demolition

As we discuss whether development pays for itself, here is an interesting Factoid:

From the City of Raleigh Fee Structure:
• Demolition of a building or structure: $70

From the Wake County Landfill: Tipping Fee Structure
Municipal Solid Waste (MSW)
South Wake Landfill : $30/ton
North Wake Landfill : $29.50/ton
Effective July 1, 2008, the State of NC will require a $2/ton excise tax on every ton received at the landfill.

I dunno, feels a little below cost to me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Going Down

In Spring of 2006, a second house on a short street went down for a speculative venture. Someone had concluded there was a shortage of houses that look like Riverboats in Raleigh, and built us one. The name of the venture had something to do with money ... Dynasty or Gold or Titanium or something. The asking price was $ 1,250,000 / 5 Bedrooms / 4 Bathrooms / 1 Half Baths / Sq Footage 4983 / Built 2006 / Lot 0.46 acres / Garage for 2.

See Confusing Claremont and Rebuilding Royster for more.

Today a notice was left by sheriff on a door at:
2900 block of Royster Road

This is will not be the last quick-mansion to go down. The profit margin was only big enough for a short fast run.

Pkg Sale Date 10/10/2005 / Pkg Sale Price $300,000

Land Value Assessed $313,200 / Bldg. Value Assessed $623,781

Total Value Assessed $936,981

Fallonia still believes that Risk is one of the market's best check and balance features. That is why you find residents taking moderate risk with their investment, which is met by acceptance by most neighbors.

Residents have a way of knowing when the game has changed to their detriment. Someone made money in 2005 flipping this house, $35K here and there, not bad for a plan and some paperwork. The difference between the retail price and the property value is $313K.

This opportunity for making a small killing has been motivating a land rush in certain newly high-priced neighborhoods. This is one of several house of cards that may be taking a tumble.

Big Meet Tonight

Home-Size Debate Heads to Raleigh City Council

RALEIGH, N.C. — In some of Raleigh's oldest neighborhoods, newer homes nearly double or triple the size of the ones around them. Some say it's ruining the character of their communities.

The Raleigh City Council plans to discuss the issue at its meeting today. The hearing will focus on infill – the practice of knocking down old houses and replacing them with larger ones.

Actually what is on the docket is this, from the City Planning Department:

A special joint City Council and Planning Commission public hearing will be held on March 18th at 6:30pm to receive public input on proposed revisions to the process of establishing Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts (NCODs). The hearing will be held in the Council Chamber, Room 201, 222 West Hargett Street, Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex.

NCODs provide a rezoning process for individual neighborhoods to customize zoning regulations such as setbacks, height, lot size and parking location to reflect the built character of the neighborhood. The proposal will shorten the process for requesting this overlay district by eliminating the lengthy requirement of the drafting of a Neighborhood Plan and the subsequent adoption of the approved Neighborhood Plan into the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Other changes address the process for Council’s adoption of the regulations associated with a proposed NCOD. A final draft and summary of the proposed ordinance will be available on or before March 4, 2008.

Is this the fix the city is offering? Here is a clue for how the mayor wants to handle this:

Mayor Charles Meeker said there is not a one-size-fits-all solution and he wants to see the issue dealt with neighborhood by neighborhood.

Is this the city-sized response to a super-sized problem, or is this just a another bone?

If you have not signed the Respect4Raleigh petition, now is a good time. It will be presented to the City this evening. Hope you can make the 6:30 Public Hearing, there will be plenty of people there trying to convince the city that Redevelopment is NOT a problem. I respectfully disagree. ...

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Rosedale

Earlier this week, we posted the picture of a sign in the yard neighboring a large new residential building.

Here is the image of the house that was removed for new construction.

The history of this property began in August of 1933. It's transformation to this began in August of 2007.

The surprised next door neighbors bought their .58 acre bit of quietude in 2003. That came to a halt last year when they found out they may be living in a changing neighborhood. The parcel in question is the 3rd from right on the north side of Rosedale but the new footprint of this 3800 sq foot house is not indicated. Note the prevailing setbacks; this is another of Raleigh's older neighborhoods with R-6 zoning and R-4 buildouts.

So, what does happen to a neighborhood when something this dramatically different occurs to it? Which house looks like it does not belong on this street? The answer is clear right now, but when it happens again, and again, the answer may change. Streets in Raleigh with one teardown/rebuild seem to attract more.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

From the UK ...

Housebuilder told to tear down luxury home

Feb 25 2008 by Mike Blackburn, Evening Gazette

A LUXURY house builder has lost an appeal after being told to tear down a half-built home that left neighbours fuming.

Developers Charles Church began building plot 419 in Portus Bar, Ingleby Barwick, before agreeing boundary and height levels with Stockton Council - a condition of the original planning permission.

Enraged neighbours complained it severely impinged on their privacy and the council’s planning committee agreed, rejecting the developer’s retrospective application in August last year.

Councillor Bob Gibson said developers must face the consequences if they do not adhere to planning conditions and declared the property should be knocked down.

The company had offered several remedial measures, which included higher fencing and fixed, obscurely glazed windows in the kitchen in a bid to ease concerns.

Charles Church appealed against the decision to The Planning Inspectorate - but, to the joy of neighbours, the appeal was last week dismissed.

Nick Matthews, who lives with his family directly behind the building, in Brougham Close, had complained the new house intruded on their privacy.

He told the Gazette previously: “We all handpicked our plots on the basis that we were told our houses would be garden-to-garden, but they changed it here so that our garden backs on to a house.

“They have never discussed it with us, just went ahead and built it with no consultation.”

Today he welcomed The Planning Inspectorate’s decision as “a victory for the people”, adding: “I’m absolutely delighted, it’s fantastic.”

In his report the Planning Inspector accepted one of the proposed measures to remedy the council’s and neighbours’ concerns - the obscure glazing - would be efficient.

But he was not convinced other measures would work and would still result in “harmful overlooking and a loss of privacy both to the occupants in Brougham Close and to prospective occupants of the appeal site”.

Charles Church was not available for comment.

The contentious house was part of a 35-home development in Portus Bar, given the green light by Stockton’s planning committee in October 2006.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tear-OUT of the Week

3033 Lewis Farm Rd

Zoning R-10
Acreage .38
Permit Date
Permit #
Transfer Information

Deed Date 1/11/2008

Pkg Sale Date 1/11/2008
Pkg Sale Price $360,000

Heated Area 1,817

Assessed Value
Land $230,625
Bldg. $149,787
Total Value Assessed $380,412

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shifting Ground

American cities, towns, and rural areas are suffering growing pains.

The symptoms are obvious. The remedies are not.

Shifting Ground is a public radio series that examines the difficult choices confronting communities as they cope with change and try to shape a better future.

Today's broadcast had a surprising twist on the protections provided by conservation easements; apparently they don't cover mineral rights below your land. That story can be found here.

Just goes to show you, it's always something. ...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sign of the Times

Here is a Raleigh resident who is asking the right question about the redevelopment activities in his community.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Oberlin Village

The News & Observer published a focus on re-development activities in Oberlin Village in today's paper.

Most of Oberlin's early settlers came in the 1860s, with the emancipation of slaves after the Civil War. Hundreds of former slaves bought modest tracts cut from farmland.

The village thrived. Residents planted gardens and reveled in one another's company. Chickens scratched around dirt streets. Watchful mothers fussed at any child making mischief in their sight. Residents named the neighborhood Oberlin, after the college in Ohio that was the first to regularly admit black students.

When newcomers started to arrive, about a decade ago, many of them moved into the modest bungalows lining Van Dyke and Bedford avenues. They passed up larger homes in the suburbs for a neighborhood flanked by N.C. State University, Wade Avenue and Cameron Village. They planted landscaping, painted the bedrooms and installed new cabinets.

Century-old Oberlin Village homes now fetch well over $200,000. But for the newest buyers -- developers -- the homes are the least attractive part of the purchase. Termites have eaten some; others sag with neglect.

It's the land they want. As buildable lots inside the Beltline disappear, developers are making their own, knocking down modest homes to make room for 3,000-square-foot bungalows with hardwood floors and custom cabinets.

This is such a dilemma. As our city loses the valuable history that makes Raleigh who she is today, do we have the collective will make real planning decisions, or are market forces the final answer?

As the streamlined NCOD hits the streets, we will find out whether a neighborhood under re-development can protect itself. Note that the NCOD only covers building, preservation is only available through Historic Overlays. And that gets difficult the more a neighborhood loses of its original character.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

LIght, Air and a Lawsuit

Hello, lovely new home: Keillor moving a few blocks

The author-radio host and his family are planning to buy a house on Summit Avenue overlooking St. Paul.

Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

The Georgian Revival house on Summit Avenue in St. Paul that Garrison Keillor and his wife have offered to buy was built in 1919, designed by the noted Boston architectural firm Thomas, Parker & Rice, designers of many historic East Coast buildings. It sits on a bluff overlooking the city on a half-acre lot.

By PAT PHEIFER, Star Tribune
Last update: March 4, 2008 - 11:34 PM

Are you in the market for a seven-bedroom house with 14-foot ceilings and a sweeping staircase reminiscent of a French chateau, in a bustling and historic neighborhood in St. Paul?

Would it help that one of the sellers is writer, storyteller and radio host Garrison Keillor?

The star of "A Prairie Home Companion" and his wife, Jenny Lind Nilsson, listed their house in the Ramsey Hill Historic District with a real estate agent this week. The asking price: $1.65 million, according to

Keillor and Nilsson sued their next-door neighbor, Lori Anderson, in January to stop her from building a two-story garage-and-studio addition to her house, saying the project would "obstruct the access of light and air to [their] property."

But the dispute isn't the reason Keillor and Nilsson are selling their house and buying another, said real estate agent Mary Hardy. Keillor wants a large, airy first-floor studio where he can work, she said. Keillor and Nilsson made an offer for a house in the 200 block of Summit Avenue that has about 4,000 square feet more space and sits on a half-acre lot on a bluff. While its listing price is no longer public, the house's taxable value was listed at just under $1.6 million.
The lawsuit that Keillor and Nilsson filed was settled through mediation about a week later, but terms were not disclosed.

Since then, however, new drawings have been submitted to and approved by the city, said Robert Humphrey, assistant to the director of the city's Department of Safety and Inspections. The new plans, Humphrey said, call for the addition to be built away from the property line. Otherwise, the project is essentially the same.

On Tuesday, it appeared that construction was underway.
Keillor was out of town and had no comment Tuesday, said his spokesman, David O'Neill.

Keillor and Nilsson's current house in the 400 block of Portland Avenue was built in 1915 and designed by Emmanuel Masqueray, the same architect who designed the St. Paul Cathedral. The house has more than 5,000 square feet on three finished levels, seven bedrooms and two fireplaces.
"Very, very livable," Hardy called it.

The stately house that will become the couple's new home, a few blocks away, isn't too shabby either. The 9,000-plus-square-foot house in the 200 block of Summit Avenue has six bedrooms and four fireplaces. It was built in 1919 and sits behind a wrought-iron fence and gate.

No one is likely to block the air flow or scenery there. It sits on a half-acre lot on a bluff.

"Gorgeous," is how Hardy described the house.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Be the first on your block

... to read the NCOD text change proposal from the City of Raleigh Planning Department.

According to my sources, this is one aspect of the Planning Department's Infill Study, which has been resumed by the new staff person.

There are some key differences with the old way. Do you think this is enough to protect your home in your neighborhood?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

York on Raleigh

The State of Things interview of Smedes York on WUNC-FM is still posted. It contains a wealth of information about the history of Raleigh. Here is the link for those of you who missed its broadcast.

Fallonia finds the big picture ironic, that she would find perspective in the words of a "development" mayor. (And rapid-fire growth under a neighborhood mayor).

(paraphrased for context) There are a lot of great reasons why people want to move here, and these are the same reasons why the people who live here want to stay here. ... We are going to grow, and the only reason we would not is because we mess it up ... and the problem with that is if we mess it up, we mess it up for the people who live here as well.

Monday, November 05 2007
Smedes York knows a thing or two about being part of a family business. His grandfather, C.V. York started The York and Cobb Construction Company in 1910, and his father, J. Willie York, developed Raleigh's Cameron Village. But his involvement in the community extends far beyond the multi-generation family construction business. He has established a long record of civic involvement that includes serving as Raleigh’s mayor from 1979 to 1983. Smedes York joins host Frank Stasio to discuss the family business and how the Yorks have shaped Raleigh's development.

Monday, March 3, 2008

ITB Award for Leap Day

bravely going where no one has gone before...