Daily Archives: February 24, 2009
Greenwich is blessed with floor area ratio regulations (FAR) that purport to establish the ideal size house for every zoning class. These were dreamed up, as far as I can tell, by Riverside resident Franklin Bloomer and he has fiercely resisted any attempt to modify them to adjust for non-conforming lots or even common sense. In fact, he has met every voiced opposition with new, more stringent rules, as if to prove that he was just being nice to the rest of us the first time.
FAR regs are the reason you can’t use your attic in new construction, why houses built on one acre non-conforming lots in the RA-2 zone can have carports but not garages (this is also true of under-sized lots in Old Greenwich), why you now need site plans and must incur engineering fees to build a ten-foot-square addition to your house, etc. etc. etc. The lunacy and waste are truly appalling but not to Franklin Bloomer or, apparently, the RTM, which keeps reappointing him FAR Czar.
I recently noticed that one of my creek neighbors was forced to stop a construction project. It seems he dared to punch a hole in the foundation of his house so that he could walk from his basement to the creek. So what? you might ask. How does that affect anyone but him? It doesn’t make the house any larger, does it? Of course not, but in Franklin World, it’s a violation of the Bloomer Code so all work must S-T-O-P! NOW! Did another neighbor turn him in or did Franklin, on one of his bicycle inspections along and through the creek mud discover this egregious breach of social contract himself? I don’t suppose it matters. What does matter is that we bring sense to these rules but, alas, the new town plan (Franklin’s against that, too, because his personal blessing wasn’t sought before going public with it) will only make things worse.
No one except their owners likes huge houses, but the FAR doesn’t prevent them. What it does do is impose unnecessary expense and hardship on modest sized houses on modest sized lots. You may think you agree with these regulations – wait until you decide to add a sun porch.
I was delighted to receive an email from someone at Hinckley telling me that my depressed posting, based on a Bangor Daily News article about this wonderful boat builder foundering was “overstated”. Seems the Bangor Deadly News, as it’s referred to up there, mistook the glum news of one of several Hinckley yards closing for the demise of the entire enterprise. Not so, says my correspondent, and I couldn’t be happier. I have never had the pleasure of actually sailing a Hinckley but these boats have brightened my life considerably just from being able to appreciate their beauty, whether sailing past, far away on the horizon or in port. Gorgeous boats – may they always sail the seven seas.
Billions and billions of dollars. I’m so disappointed to learn this.
Hey, anyone would be better than Dodd. A libertarian would just be icing on the cake. If I understand the situation, Schiff isn’t running but supporters want him to. Whatever – here’s a link to the Schiff for Senate folks and you can figure out what’s what. What I want to know is, does he have a cozy Irish cottage?
The Greenwich resident arrested today for killing a 79-year-old man has a house here in town at 12 Wyckham Hill. It was for sale for a long time, but despite starting at only $3.375 million (Wyckham never has commanded decent prices) and dropping as low as $2.975 the listing expired, house unsold, in June of 2008. It’s obviously a sad tragedy for both the victim’s family and the perpetrator’s, but turning to business, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this house coming back up for sale. The killer, chiropractor William Lindemann (no relation to Greenwich horse killer George Lindemann, I don’t think) is already a convicted felon – Medicare fraud – and is bound to be needing some money for lawyers fees soon. Here’s what Greenwich Time has to say about his troubled past:
In 1997, Lindemann was indicted on fraud charges after a federal investigation in Brooklyn, N.Y., linked him to insurance schemes involving organized crime figures, according to published reports.
In the schemes, insurance was collected for patient visits that never took place or for treatments never given, and medical information was provided for false claims in lawsuits.
According to information on the Web site of the New York state Office of the Professions, Lindemann’s license was suspended in 2001 for 24 months, and he was placed on probation for three years.
Lindemann admitted to having been convicted of seven counts of felony mail fraud, according to the Web site. It is unclear whether he served time in prison.
No, not (another) rant against Muslims, I’m thinking about what’s happening to prices on the western side of town. This house on Canterbury sold for $1.3 million in May, 2007. Nice house – 3,600 sq.ft., 0.18 acre, all new and seemingly well built. The same builder put what is essentially the same house (3,600 sq. ft., 0.18 acre) up for sale next door at 17 Canterbury in January 2008 and asked $1.695 million. Far be it from me to tell a builder his business but this wasn’t the smartest price, coming just months after he’d achieved the highest price on Canterbury to date at $300,000 less. It’s down now to $1.595, which may make it stand out against a similar new house a block away on Nicholas that’s asking $1.795 but I think the sale price for 15 is going to influence all new construction in this neighborhood. That and our falling market, of course.
Muslim terrorists’ convictions overturned in France. They’re free to go and bomb again but of course, this being France, they were already out of jail. I’ve said it before: kill these guys in the field – end of problem.
A reader asked about the enormous house going up at this address (foundation shown here). It’s, so far as I can tell, a custom house for a Mr. John R. Frank, of whom I know nothing, on a 22 acre parcel once belonging to the late Charlotte Hencken of whom I also know nothing (although Google turns up some very valuable antique silver auctioned by an Albert Hencken of Greenwich).
This was a Brad Hvolbeck listing back in 2003 or so and the estate had received subdivision approval in this R-2 zone for four building lots of approximately 4.5 acres each plus a conservation set aside. Mr. Frank bought all four lots in March, 2005 paying about $4.1 million each, or $16 million and change for the whole package. I think that was a great deal for the neighbors, if not for Mr. Frank, because, in most neighbors’ eyes, one huge house is still better than four very large houses.
The house itself seems to be nearing completion and while it isn’t my cup of tea, it looks pretty swell. It certainly doesn’t fall into the “there goes the neighborhood” category as my own arrival would, so lucky neighbors. And fortunate Mr. Frank to be able to afford such a fine piece of property.
Here’s a portion of Benjamin Bernanke’s testimony today, courtesy of Clusterstock:
This outlook for economic activity is subject to considerable uncertainty, and I believe that, overall, the downside risks probably outweigh those on the upside. One risk arises from the global nature of the slowdown, which could adversely affect U.S. exports and financial conditions to an even greater degree than currently expected. Another risk derives from the destructive power of the so-called adverse feedback loop, in which weakening economic and financial conditions become mutually reinforcing. To break the adverse feedback loop, it is essential that we continue to complement fiscal stimulus with strong government action to stabilize financial institutions and financial markets. If actions taken by the Administration, the Congress, and the Federal Reserve are successful in restoring some measure of financial stability–and only if that is the case, in my view–there is a reasonable prospect that the current recession will end in 2009 and that 2010 will be a year of recovery. If financial conditions improve, the economy will be increasingly supported by fiscal and monetary stimulus, the salutary effects of the steep decline in energy prices since last summer, and the better alignment of business inventories and final sales, as well as the increased availability of credit.
A lot has changed since 1997 when 193 Hamilton Avenue sold for $250,000. That project was joined by some other, more expensive ones on the same street, and real estate values shot up, as you may have noticed. But what now? The last owner of this unit tried for $769,000 in ’07 and settled for $655 in March of ’08. In January, that buyer listed it again for $696,000 and just dropped it today by $20,000. It appears that the unit was redone sometime between 1997 and 2007 but nothing since, so even hoping to get $21,000 more than it’s 2008 price is probably optimistic. The intriguing question is, how optimistic?
Well there are a few but I’m not going out to see them. I’ve already seen the $5.9 million condos at 56 Milbank and while I admire their builder’s tenacity in pricing them there in January 2007 and sticking with that price until he gets it, I’ve seen them once and I’m sure that, if I need to view them next September, I’ll have that chance. Or, next time I’m at Whole Foods, I’ll just stick my head over the retaining wall and take a gander.
There’s an empty lot at 5 Fox Lane which offers either a to-be-built house at $1,000 + sq. ft. or three acres as is for $4.5 million. I have no clients interested in paying $8 million for new construction and as for land, the 4.6 acres at 228 Round Hill Road is better. In my opinion, of course.
There’s new construction on the Byram side of Byram Shore Road, by which I mean non-waterfront, for $3 million something. That would set a record for that side of the road, I believe, so I think I’ll wait a bit and see if the price drops. Or it sells – it could happen, I suppose.
Other than that – eh? Nothing new and no price reductions large enough to catch my eye and want to revisit at the lower price. While it’s true that shaving a few million dollars off a listing price can have the same effect as a lovely woman losing 75 pounds, the price reductions I see on today’s list are the equivalent of a five-pound drop. Getting there, but ….
I admit to knowing next to nothing about trading stocks and I do realize that it’s just silly to monitor the index on a minute-by-minute (or, for a non- trader like myself, month-by-month) basis, but with all that considered, this doesn’t look promising:
Well, this proves I was right the first time. I’ll check back in on Wall Street at the end of the day.
I don’t think so, but perhaps we’re drawing closer. Home values dropped 18.5% in December, nationwide.
From the WSJ:
“There are very few, if any, pockets of turnaround that one can see in the data,” said David M. Blitzer, chairman of S&P’s index committee. “Most of the nation appears to remain on a downward path, with all of the 20 metro areas reporting annual declines, and eight of those [areas] now with negative rates exceeding 20%.”
Both composite indexes and 13 of the 20 metropolitan areas have reported consecutive record year-over-year declines since December 2007.
As of December, average home prices are down 27% from their mid-2006 peak. The 10-city and 20-city indexes have fallen every month since August 2006, 29 straight.
Both the 10-city and 20-city indexes fell 19% in 2008. December’s drop marks the 10-city index’s 15th-straight monthly report of a record decline.
Its a Parliament of Whores
House Democrats propose $410B spending bill
House bill to keep govt. running totals $410 billion, features thousands of pet projects
- Tuesday February 24, 2009, 8:50 am EST
WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats unveiled a $410 billion spending bill on Monday to keep the government running through the end of the fiscal year, setting up the second political struggle over federal funds in less than a month with Republicans.The measure includes thousands of earmarks, the pet projects favored by lawmakers but often criticized by the public in opinion polls. There was no official total of the bill’s earmarks, which accounted for at least $3.8 billion.
The legislation, which includes an increase of roughly 8 percent over spending in the last fiscal year, is expected to clear the House later in the week.
Democrats defended the spending increases, saying they were needed to make up for cuts enacted in recent years or proposed a year ago by then-President George W. Bush in health, education, energy and other programs.
Apart from spending, the legislation provides Democrats in Congress and Obama an opportunity to reverse Bush-era policy on selected issues.
In another change, the legislation bans Mexican-licensed trucks from operating outside commercial zones along the border with the United States. The Teamsters Union, which supported Obama’s election last year, hailed the move.
The legislation covers programs for numerous Cabinet-level and other agencies, and takes the place of regular annual spending bills that did not pass last year as a result of a deadlock between the Bush administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress.
Congressional expenses are included. The bill provides $500,000 for what is described as a Senate “pilot program” that will defray the cost of mass mail postcards to households notifying them of a nearby town meeting to be attended by any senator.
I’ve long since distanced myself from the church of my early youth but it’s fun to check in on them from time to time to see how they’re doing. Not so well, judging from this.
Thanks to Instapundit we get this link to an Englishman’s coverage of the Dodd scandal and this photograph of the “cottage” Dodd bought for peanuts after arranging a midnight pardon for his co-owner:
Looking over the open house list today I see that 44 Close Road, 12,000 s/ft on 4 acres asking $10.9 million is still for sale. This is a perfectly good house, with a huge (52′) swimming pool, the requisite Christopher Peacock kitchen and all that, yet it has never been lived in since it was built in 2002. The land it sets on was sold in just 13 days back in 2001 for full asking price: $2.3 million. I believe, but am not positive, that Tommy Hilfiger ordered the present house built, but whoever it was changed his mind, listed it for $11.9 million in 2003 and finally sold it for $9.5 million in January, 2005. That buyer never moved in either and has been trying to sell it since at least 2007, first at $12.7 million and now, as I said, $10.9. I can see no reason why this house hasn’t sold except for market conditions but those are what they are, and here the house sits. I consider it a pretty typical example of a Back Country spec house so I’m watching it with curiosity to see whether it ever sells and if it does, what it fetches.