Daily Archives: August 11, 2006

Historic Preservation
Riverside architect Jay Haverson has a problem: he purchased a two acre lot on Round Hill Road in the four acre zone and, thanks to the inexplicable rule that penalizes undersized lots, he is only allowed to build a 5,445 sq. ft. lot instead of the 7,840 sq. ft. otherwise permitted on two-acre parcels (and 5,880 on a one acre lot – go figure). He’s okay with that, but the lot has a very old (1827) cottage on it that he’d like to preserve. He’s stripped off all later additions and preserved the original, 1,650 sq.ft. structure and would like to keep it as a guest house. Under our FAR rules, however, the area of the cottage is deducted from the permitted size of the new house so either the cottage goes, at great loss to the streetscape, or something else has to give. Haverson has proposed that it’s the FAR that should give. In two and four acre zones, he suggests that the already-existing Historic Overlay process be applied, on a case-by-case basis, to review applications for an exception to the FAR rules. I’m simplifying things here but basically, the rule change would create a process whereby the owner of an existing, antique house could apply for relief from the FAR so that a modern house could be built and the original preserved. There would be nothing automatic-the Historical Commission could deny an application, demand that the new house reflect the style of the old, whatever it deemed necessary and appropriate.

I know of three similar situations right off the top of my head and I’m sure there are many more. The houses in question are obsolete as that term is used in real estate and we’ll eventually lose every one of them if some incentive isn’t found to encourage their owners to keep them. It’s not just builders who tear these houses down; new owners do it too because, except for nuts like myself, people don’t want to / can’t live in them. Excluding their area from FAR calculations seems like a sensible way to accomplish this, all without dipping into taxpayers’ pockets for special tax credits, etc. I know Jay Haverson and like his work and I’m absolutely certain that the house he’s building will be a beautiful addition to Round Hill. But how much nicer if, in addition to the new house, the old one could also be preserved. The next hearing on his proposal is scheduled for September. He already has the support of many preservationists in town but if you’re interested in that goal, you might want to attend and learn more.

Further Broker Etiquette Lessons
Turn out the lights, lock the door. It drives me crazy when a client reports that some unthoughtful agent has shown a house and blithely moved on without re-securing the house and shutting off the lights. It’s both unprofessional and rude to be so careless and it gives all of us a black eye.

Whatever happened to Travel by Shank’s Mare?
I happened to be at the Riverside Yacht Club the other morning when a huge crush of cars arrived, almost all SUVs and each bearing children (one car per family, damnit, no carpooling here!). As I left and headed up Club Road I didn’t spy a single kid walking or riding a bicycle to summer camp. I’m not picking on this particular club by the way – I’ve seen the same phenomenon at our local schools around town – but I do wonder what happened to kids getting around on their own. Is it fear of kidnappers? Too many hours in front of Gameboys rendering leg muscles useless? Inquiring minds want to know.

Beach Read
I just finished “The Ethical Assassin” by David Liss. What a hoot. Liss wrote “A Conspiracy of Paper” a few years ago and won an Edgar Award for his efforts. This one is far loonier and tracks its characters as they romp through Florida in all sorts of improbable ways. I loved it but its black humor may not be for you. Try this passage concerning the reflections of a hit man: “Knowing that the body was but a shell and the soul lived on had helped him in his enforcement work in Vegas. It’s not so hard to beat someone to death if you know you’re not doing any permanent damage.” Those two sentences made me put the book down and say, “damn, I wish I’d written that”. Your reaction may differ, naturally. If so, you won’t like my upcoming novel either so you can save your money twice. Is this column useful, or what?

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