37 Hickory Drive
I think this house is one of the best buys on the market at $849,000. Its owners have kept it in absolutely mint condition: new baths, a new kitchen and updated mechanicals, so it’s in move-in condition, with no hidden costs to meet. Hickory Drive overlooks the Byram River and is, by my measurement, only three miles from the top of Greenwich Avenue and just a few minutes from the Merritt. If your kids have been priced out of the Greenwich market, I suggest you have them look at this home. Helen Maher’s listing, at Prudential Old Greenwich.
4 Orchard Hill
And if your kids aren’t priced out of the market but instead are pocketing hedge fund salaries that make your life-time earnings look like chump change, then perhaps you should steer them to this listing of Mandy Fry’s. It’s a beautiful cape set high up on two and a half acres with really nice views. It’s in great shape – I wouldn’t touch a thing. Five bedrooms, $2,795,000 – maybe your kids will buy it for you.
Ice Storm Anger
First Selectman Jim Lash appeared at last week’s Riverside Association annual meeting to explain, inter alia, the town’s response to the two storms that so disrupted our lives. He mentioned, as is discussed every time something like this happens, that when the electrical network goes down, it does no good to restore “downstream” houses until the problem upstream is corrected. If you do, it just fails again. So, while it is frustrating to sit for two days (as I did) watching a large tree lie across your wires, patience is advised; you’re not being ignored. My personal opinion, perhaps tempered by the fact that we got our power back in two days and did not lose it again when Round Two arrived, is that the town and CL&P did a pretty incredible job repairing the damage. I have spoken with several people who, like me, have lived in town for fifty years, and none of us can remember a hurricane causing so much devastation, all around town. Sometimes, bad things happen and even Greenwich’s wealth can’t spare us that.
At that same meeting Ted Gwartney, Greenwich’s Assessor, bravely showed up to answer questions about the new assessment. I was impressed by both his courage and his demonstrated knowledge. You can like your new assessment or not, but you ought to be reassured that the assessments are not being plucked blindly from a hat. Gwartney pointed out, correctly in my opinion, that the driving force in our market is the value of land; older houses are depreciating rapidly and are less and less a factor in your property’s value. Any house older than, say, fifty years is probably headed for the dumpster and its shelter value is insignificant to the value of the land it sits on. Not surprisingly, the larger a house can be built on a lot, the higher the value, so a non-conforming small lot with a minimal allowable FAR is worth less than an over-sized lot. The Assessor’s office is aware of this, and makes the appropriate adjustment.
One item of note: Gwartney said that his office has already heard around 1,000 informal appeals and, of those who presented significant information (as opposed to a general complaint that a property owner’s taxes were too high), forty percent were granted a reduction (and eighteen houses’ assessments were raised, so be careful here). If you don’t like your assessment, my advice is to forget about your house-its condition isn’t much of a factor-and concentrate on your land. If it’s a tough building site, hilly, rocky, swampy, what have you, you can probably argue that its worth less than a flat building lot next door. And check your FAR – if the tax people are calculating that you have a half-acre of land in the R-12 zone, but a quarter of that land is a long driveway, point out that FAR regulations won’t allow you to include the access strip in your building size. The Assessor might not have picked that up, and it matters.
Beach Card Fees Revisited
It looks like we’re in for a town-wide debate over whether to reduce visitors fees. I’d merely point out that Westport has for years collected ten bucks at the gate for each non-resident car and let joggers and bikers in for free. Their beach is far smaller than ours, is right next to a big city and yet, whenever I’ve visited, seems to be surviving quite nicely. I love our beach, but I think some folks over-rate its attractiveness to non-residents. My advice is, don’t sweat. If the reduced fee causes greater congestion, we can always raise it back. My bet is, we won’t have to.