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Old 04-04-2011, 09:17 PM
 
2,670 posts, read 4,518,379 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MPass View Post
Carlingtonian - thanks for the link.

So here's the interesting thing, we went to the County zoning office last week and were told the 35-foot limit is an average height calculation of the four corners of the roof (sorry to get so technical, but we're desperate) as opposed to an absolute height restriction on the house.

It seems this developer knows exactly what he's doing. This new 5,000 sq ft house (which technically meets the average height calculation - somehow it comes in at 29 ft ?!?!) currently under construction is going to dwarf our 1,800 sq. ft. 1930's home (along with all of the neighboring homes). Does anyone out there know what recourse, if any, we have at this point?

Thanks again Carlingtonian
Here is a link to lot coverage and related rules:

http://www.arlingtonva.us/department..._Section32.pdf

There are developers who know the rules inside and out and how to squeeze the largest possible structure on the lot.
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Old 04-05-2011, 04:14 PM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,738 posts, read 8,937,269 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MPass View Post
Carlingtonian - thanks for the link.

So here's the interesting thing, we went to the County zoning office last week and were told the 35-foot limit is an average height calculation of the four corners of the roof (sorry to get so technical, but we're desperate) as opposed to an absolute height restriction on the house.

It seems this developer knows exactly what he's doing. This new 5,000 sq ft house (which technically meets the average height calculation - somehow it comes in at 29 ft ?!?!) currently under construction is going to dwarf our 1,800 sq. ft. 1930's home (along with all of the neighboring homes). Does anyone out there know what recourse, if any, we have at this point?

Thanks again Carlingtonian
MPass, glad to help! Wow--that rule is insane. Can't believe it's not a clear-cut limit. Unfortunately, I don't know what your recourse is, other than a lawsuit perhaps, if you can find something to base it on. I really feel for you. The way Arlington is going, it seems like in 20 years there'll be nothing but McMansions and condos.

We have some McMansions on our street, but they were there when we bought our house. I have this fantasy of someday becoming a billionaire and then tearing down McMansions to build neighborhoods of small to medium brick Cape Cods and Colonials, with a built-in proscription against tearing them down or expanding them. (For the record, I think big houses look fine if they're on big lots.)

Last edited by Carlingtonian; 04-05-2011 at 04:24 PM..
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Old 01-28-2012, 01:17 PM
 
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I wish the Arlington County Board would think as much about quality of life of the residents, neighborhood history and just plain aesthetics as they think about their tax base. But then, the Board has been pretty much the same bunch of idiots forever. It's like they can't be voted out. It is ridiculous to have a nice, established neighborhood be ruined by developers who build even one huge house on a postage stamp piece of land. I'm sick of seeing perfectly nice, modest homes dwarfted by these monstrosities. And most of the new homes I see really ARE monstrosities in their design as well their size. Give me an old home that is updated anytime. These new homes are are not built anywhere near as well as the older homes, I don't care how modern the materials are. I live on N. 20th Street in Arlington next to a coming McMansion that will block off every bit of sunlight from my home and garden. I hope it sells for way below the desired price... Or just sits there.
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Old 01-28-2012, 07:53 PM
 
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I've counted about 10 teardowns in the past month in the historic singe family neighborhoods near Clarendon. No house is safe. I've seen large 1930s colonials demolished as well as the smaller three bedroom Sears craftsman bungalows. One .17 acre lot near Clarendon with a large bungalow (that was renovated about 10 years ago) is being advertised to builders as a teardown for two homes on about .08 acres each.

At the current rate of tear downs most of the historic homes in Arlington's historic neighborhoods will be gone in a few short years. Homebuyers looking for historic bungalows are increasingly looking to Takoma Park, Kensington, Shepherd Park, Woodridge, Del Ray, Brookland, and Silver Spring, where prices are much more reasonable than in N Arlington. Not too many people will pay 1.5 mill for a 3 bedroom 1920s craftsman. So these old N Arlington homes are becoming an endangered species.

One thing I've noticed is that many of these new homes don't respect setbacks. One new 1.5 mill McMansion just south of Clarendon is built right up to the sidewalk ignoring the setbacks of the other homes. Near Westover, in a neighborhood of 1930s large colonials, a new mcmansion was built right up to the property line with no yard space. The two car garage ate up what could've been a backyard.

About 20 years ago responding to residents' concerns, the county tried to restrict just these types of insensitive infill projects citing water percolation issues. But home builders fought back and that was the end of that fight.
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Old 01-28-2012, 08:50 PM
 
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MPass and Kate911, raise hell at your next civic association meeting. The local builders are now designing houses much larger than they have in the past.

Maybe bring up the idea of becoming a "local historic district" which restricts changes to the exteriors of homes (i.e. subject to design review by county staff). I don't think such a designation restricts additions to the rear elevation.
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Old 01-29-2012, 09:30 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
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Irvine, I share your sentiments exactly. It's saddening to see a charming, extremely well-built home from the past torn down, all so that some oversized, tacky McMegaShack* made of siding can go up in its place. (Nothing to me screams "tasteless nouveau riche" than buying a gargantuan, cheaply made house on a tiny lot. Reminds me of that show "My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding.")

Is there anything that can be done about these teardowns? I don't know. I've somewhat decided not to care anymore rather than repeatedly subject myself to heartbreak.

The County Board is a huge part of the problem--but so is the very structure of the County government. The fact that our county manager--our de facto mayor--is an appointed position is a big reason why the county government isn't more accountable. Year after year, they prove that they care most about helping the developers, so that the developers will contribute money to the Board members' pet projects, like affordable housing. (I'm not against all affordable housing, but funding it by selling zoning exemptions is not the way to go about it.)

And then, the fact that the Board members are at large and elected via staggered elections (so that few people vote or care) helps keep them in office, because you can't easily pin the failure of any policy on any one Board member. I was sorry to see that the firefighters' and cops' efforts to change this failed, in great part because they hired some shady firm to collect signatures.

I'm a solid Democrat when it comes to state and federal elections, but two decades of Democratic domination of the Arlington County Board have yielded nothing but more McMegaShacks, more towering luxury condos, fewer affordable single-family houses, higher real-estate taxes, overcrowded schools, and now, the promise of a homeless shelter in one of the prime spots in Arlington (Court House metro).**

My only hope is that in 40 years, we'll see the McMegaShacks starting to fall apart due to being thrown together out of pressboard (OSB) and other cheap materials.

*I think that calling them McMansions is a disservice to actual mansions, on gracious lots, made with good design and high-quality materials.
**Alas, I can't run for Board myself, as it would violate the Hatch Act, since I'm a federal employee. I wonder if I'd have a shot.

Last edited by Carlingtonian; 01-29-2012 at 10:28 AM..
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Old 01-29-2012, 10:01 AM
 
Location: In the woods
3,315 posts, read 8,772,060 times
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I see this thread has been revived. I feel for the posters who have to experience what is going on in Arlington.

I have seen this too many times. I have family in Wildwood, NJ which, once upon a time, had large (and small) Victorian houses just like Cape May, NJ. Over the last 20-25 yrs, they have slowly been demolished in place of el cheapo, ugly condos. They really are quite ghastly compared to the wonderful old houses. Now, after yrs of this process, they have overbuilt the condos and have a surplus of them. The landscape of the city has changed completely, losing much of its character, IMO.

Out here in Winchester, there is a preservation society that is extremely active in preserving the architecture. They will actually buy a property, restore it, apply covenants, and then sell it. There are condos in the works; however, it is under certain stipulations, such as preserving the facade or original footprint of the building. I believe that there are many families (with "old" money) out here who are involved as well as local citizens.

The local govt in Arlington obviously doesn't give a hoot about the historic component of these aforementioned areas. Is there any civic groups that can band together and vocalize concerns of the local citizens?

I read an article last yr (can't remember the paper) about this process. It is called "In-Fill Re-Development". The process, as you guys note, involves going into an older neighborhood, buying up and tearing down the older houses, building the monsters so that eventually, the property (as a whole) increases in value. Those who still live in the older houses have to deal with newer increases overall, especially property taxes. Some residents, for example, the elderly who have lived in their homes a long time and are on a fixed income, can no longer afford to stay in their homes. So these are sold as well. Over time, the neighborhood looks nothing like it did originally.
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Old 01-29-2012, 10:39 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,738 posts, read 8,937,269 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by South Jersey Styx View Post
Out here in Winchester, there is a preservation society that is extremely active in preserving the architecture. They will actually buy a property, restore it, apply covenants, and then sell it. There are condos in the works; however, it is under certain stipulations, such as preserving the facade or original footprint of the building. I believe that there are many families (with "old" money) out here who are involved as well as local citizens.
Bravo to Winchester! How great it must be to have "old money" in your community, with all the taste and noblesse oblige that the phrase "old money" should imply.

It's probably too late for Arlington. I've thought about trying to publish a book of photographs of old houses that were torn down, calling it Lost Arlington.

Or better yet, a book called Shame of the Street--with before and after photos of each lot where a McMegaShack has gone up--including the address of each one. No one could sue for defamation, since it would consist entirely of publicly available information. Maybe if there were some way to stigmatize these gauche structures, it would lower their value.

Last edited by Carlingtonian; 01-29-2012 at 10:49 AM..
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Old 01-29-2012, 10:49 AM
 
518 posts, read 1,292,579 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by South Jersey Styx View Post
Over time, the neighborhood looks nothing like it did originally.
Exactly. In a few years' time the original historic homes will look out of place in a neighborhood of thirty foot tall homes with no yard space, and no set back restrictions. 10 tear downs a month in a small geographic area is well over 100 tear downs a year.

Some of Arlington's oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods, Lyon Park, Ashton Heights, and Lyon Village are currently seeing more teardowns than ever before and the builders are becoming more brazen, building homes much larger and completely out of context with the older homes. A beautiful historic 4,000+ sq ft 1930s colonial in Lyon Village was sold for 1.5 mill as a teardown. A home almost twice as large with about 7 bedrooms will take its place. It will dwarf all the other homes on the street and destroy the beauty of the neighborhood. This would never happen in Cleveland Park or Rosemont.

I believe that similar neighborhoods like Chevy Chase, DC and Rosemont in Alexandria have stricter design codes in place to prevent demolitions and out of character renovations. Maywood in Arlington has restrictions in place. I think as more residents become pissed off, they will seriously consider implementing stricter design codes, like Maywood. I'm afraid this is the only way. The builders are voracious and the "hedge fund managers" moving into town could care less about neighborhood character; they just want a new very large house.

Carlingtonian, at the candidate's debate in Cherrydale a few weeks ago, the topic of tear downs and infill development was brought up, but the candidates said there was nothing the county government could do, and that their "hands were tied" or something like that. The only recourse is for residents to band together and agree on becoming a local historic district.

MPass and Kate 911, bring up the idea of becoming a "local historic district" at your next civic association meeting. I believe many others will be sympathetic to your concerns, and you can look to Maywood as a good precedent. Also, you should start a thread about the tear downs and out of character McMansions on the Arlnow dot com forum.
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Old 01-29-2012, 10:57 AM
 
Location: New-Dentist Colony
5,738 posts, read 8,937,269 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by irvine View Post
Carlingtonian, at the candidate's debate in Cherrydale a few weeks ago, the topic of tear downs and infill development was brought up, but the candidates said there was nothing the county government could do, and that their "hands were tied" or something like that. The only recourse is for residents to band together and agree on becoming a local historic district.
We used to live in Cherrydale, and this very idea was proposed back in 2004. After a lot of acrimony, it died on the vine. People were afraid that some omnipotent, arbitrary Manhattan Co-Op Board-type council would veto things like the color of your shutters.

I would *gladly* trade some liberty to do certain things for the assurance that the houses nearby won't be torn down or expanded to a crazy degree.

I'm thinking we might just cash out and move to Winchester in 20 years.
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