Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Does this sound familiar?

Influx of new large homes has eroded ... traditional look, some residents say
Some suggest voluntary design guidelines

Inadvertent window peeping can be a hazard of living next to a "McMansion," say ... residents who recently listed it as a major gripe about new homes in their ... community.

"I can see right into my neighbors' bedroom, and they don't seem to care," said a resident who lives next to a super-sized new house.

While conceding that they sound like the town's "good taste police," the residents gathered at ... Hall to develop a set of voluntary home-design guidelines for new home builders.

Among their dislikes: Fake Palladian windows, bulging turrets and oversize stone balusters. Such elements clash with the character of ... traditional homes, especially the beloved, but vanishing, century-old Victorians, sprawling ranches, stately Georgians and palatial Tudors, the residents said.

Geolly gee. What is going on here? How about this example from Winnetka. "Perhaps no single tear-down better exemplifies what Winnetka is losing than the planned demolition of a Walnut Street home built in 1910 built for John L. Hamilton, a partner of famed Prairie School architect Dwight Perkins. ... Harder still, some say, is what replaces them: behemoths plopped in the midst of traditional homes where critics say they stand out like sore thumbs," the story adds.

This entire article can be found at

The guidelines are a novel approach that neighboring Glencoe and a handful of other suburban towns have taken recently to attempt to influence what goes up in their back yards without violating anyone's property rights. Whether it works is debatable.

"I don't think the process has prevented the mega-mansion from being built next door to the little ranch house, but if people want to participate, it may result in more compatibility with the existing neighborhood," Glencoe Village Manager Paul Harlow said.

That's a big 'if,' said Peter Wall, a North Shore Realtor who runs a Web site called, which specializes in matching potential tear-down properties to developers. As of this month, he had 1,380 Winnetka homes on his list of replaceable homes.

"I'm not even sure what the voluntary guidelines are," he said. "We look at what we can build on the property and what we could sell it for, and that dictates what happens to it."

Under pressure from its residents to have some say-so over what goes up in their neighborhoods, Winnetka adopted new zoning regulations a few years ago to put a lid on the sky's-the-limit approach to home building. It didn't do the trick.

"Instead of tall bad houses, we got short bad houses," said resident Chris Rintz, who is leading the town's latest effort to develop a brochure for newcomers that helps explain what Winnetkans like and dislike about new homes.

Note the definition of Value (from the OED). Money is not number one. "The Importance or preciousness of something." I like that.

No comments: