Back from the P&Z

I left early because it was so dispiriting. I’ll write about it tomorrow, but know this: if you have stairs leading down to your basement for access, say, for loading garden tools or bringing in a new furnace or water heater, or a garage located under your house, your entire basement now will count against the allowable FAR. That makes both my mother’s house and Pal Nancy’s non – conforming, even though they are, or were, considered grossly undersized just a week ago. So no additions, and very little value.

This will affect hundreds of existing houses in Greenwich, and no one knows it – they will only discover their plight when they go for a building permit and are denied, or try to sell their house and discover it’s practically worthless. Or, got an older house that’s 3.5′ off the ground with steps leading up? You’re f..kd too.

I think the answer lies in “bullet voting”, which I’ll explain tomorrow, and throw everyone currently sitting on the P&Z out of the RTM. Oh, and Franklin Bloomer too. For tonight, all you need to know is that many of you have just been thoroughly screwed, for no reason whatsoever. Our government at work.

23 Comments

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23 responses to “Back from the P&Z

  1. Anonymous

    tar and feathers?
    pitchforks and torches?

  2. Walt

    Dudester –
    Cheer up. It is our job to get screwed. Our elected officials have been doing it for so long, they think it is their birthright. We are so used to it, it doesn’t even bother us anymore. Did they at least stuff a stale free doughnut down your pipe?
    Ain’t life grand?
    Your Pal,
    Walt

  3. lowmanonthetotempole

    Just Heinous, let’s go ahead and devalue residential real estate some more in town without cause or due process….again. Hey, with my house now worth less will my taxes be reduced?

  4. Okay, What happened? Chris Davis from the Post and Frank MacEachern from GT will both have their stories to tell, but you read it here first, because CF was in the front row scoring the rounds. P&Z punted on most rounds for a two-week redo on the wording.

    But the living space and FAR in the basement got the full WWE smackdown treatment. The losers big time were homeowners with outside access to their basements. Unless the last step into your basement is higher than 48 inches, your entire basement just became your first floor, even if it was excluded for FAR limits by grade plane. If your home had a full floor’s worth of floor area build-out potential, it just lost it all.

    Further, the “temple mount” solution to grade plane, which used to cover three sides of the house, allowing one side to have a walk-out or garage door, has now been eliminated. The temple mount is now four sided.

    Well, not quite. The Commissioners of Zoning failed to vote, so the question is still pending, along with the other definition changes that they ducked until Oct 26th.

    Stay tuned. This is going to get interesting.

    A question, please? How does this drastic penalty to existing homes with exterior access to the cellar help fulfill the legal purpose of zoning?

    Since FF has declared my view to be “totally wrong,” perhaps a word of explanation is due the 21,000 property owners.

  5. shoeless

    did this pass, or is it under review?

  6. Hey

    That’s absolutely brutal.

    Elevation is rather important for foundation strength purposes. Basement stairs are just handy and improve safety.

    A truly idiotic decision.

  7. Toke

    Doesn’t 6.5″ of fill around the perimeter make the problem go away? Nonsense, I agree, but the whole game around starter castles is to hide a whacking great basement in a newly constructed hill. Natural topography is not something the GCH monitors have ever appeared to take much notice of.

  8. Patrick

    CF – any idea why our P&Z board cares about basements? The whole point of FAR is to prevent someone from building a house on a lot that is too big relevative to their neighbors or for the lot size. A basement doesn’t change that in any way – other than possibly the height of the house which is covered under another regulation. They are treating a basement like a first floor which is not the same thing when it comes to usable Square footage.

    How can we fight this? Any ideas? Between the schools and this it now sounds like it’s time to consider Darien/Westport….

  9. Toke

    that and ensure we can look down upon our neighbors

  10. just_looking

    Patrick, Come on up to Darien. It is smaller and more house for your money, bu the taxes are higher (than greenwich) and we still have some issues as a town, but 3 yrs in and we are happy with the choice. One big thing missing is that there is no blog like this one based in Darien.

  11. Red

    So does this essentially apply to anyone with a lower-level garage, with more than 48″ of stairs going up to the main floor?

    With all the ledge rock and hillside home sites in this town, I’d say “hundreds of existing houses” is an understatement. Wow. This just cannot stand.

  12. FF

    Chris –

    You inferred that all basements are counted under FAR should the new regulation pass. This is not the case, and it may be even less so based on new language.

    Also, your house would not be non-conforming under even the most stringent interpretation of the new regulations.

    The idea that vast non-conformities would be created is not backed up by any evidence. A handful of anecdotal cases in a P and Z meeting does not qualify as “proof”

    I’d ask you to be clearer to your readers. I also would be thrilled if the residents of Greenwich did rise up in indignation, bullet vote RTM members, and vote in people who would vote out all those P and Z people. At least in this case, we would know with categoric certainty what the residents of Greenwich want. We try, at least to deal with what they tell us.

  13. Commissioner Maitland was unmistakably clear.

    There is no inferring going on here at all.

    If you have any opening to the basement (excepting only a window well less than 78 inches wide) where the vertical difference from the basement floor to the ground (grade), or bottom landing of an exterior stairwell, or a garage drive or even personal doorway to the outside, then the entire basement will now count under “test #2” for FAR.

    How will you get new equipment into the basement, or store your lawn mower for the winter? Carry it down the inside stairs.

    Test #1 is the established main floor minus grade plane elevation exceeds 3.0 ft.

    So we repeat the question – How is this new rule helping to fulfill the purpose of zoning?

    And if FF votes for this, isn’t he deserving of the very treatment he proposes for P&Z members?

  14. I dropped the 48 inch vertical difference – floor up to grade in the above precise definition.

    Not covered in the discussion was a modified stairway, half outside to a depth of floor + 48.1 inches, and 8 more risers inside the basement (at 6 inches each) to reach the floor (or one really bad 48.1″ riser)

    Haa! Watch that last step fellow, and watch your head too.

    Not to worry. Our clever builders will soon defeat this rule #2 as well.

    How about a “temple mount” grade plane with a tunnel to reach true grade from the basement?

    King Hezekiah, a clever builder too, did it in Jerusalem 2700 years ago.

    http://www.generationword.com/Israel/jerusalem_sites/hezekiah_tunnel.html

  15. Anonymous

    the tyranny of petty bureaucrats.

    hey Fudrucker, are you lying to us about what’s in the new regulations or merely misrepresenting the truth?

  16. Cos Cobber

    Are the new proposed FAR/Basement rules posted anywhere? I would like to read them.

  17. patrick

    Can someone explain how to bullet vote an rtm member out? I’m not familiar with this process and have never heard this term before.

  18. Mr. 85 Broad St.

    Won’t Franklin lose his RTM seat once he sells his house since he will no longer reside in District 5? How about passing the hat among the Greenwich MLS members to buy it, knock it down and build the FAR “house of horrors” to demonstrate the sheer insanity of the rules? Accomplish two laudable goals in one shot.

  19. Flyman in Rivvy

    Sounds an awful lot like a “taking” by the government. If you can claim that this is an unfair and biased action which will result in a dimunition in value of peoples property then I recommend you dust off that old law license. Bring a class action case against the P & Z (and the members personally), they seem to kowtow to that kind of challange. Did they cave in to Chase’s threat on the Bella Nonna site? Imagine the damages at $500/sf of FAR lost. A third of that will put you into early retirement. All I ask is that you wire the typical referral fee to a numbered Cayman account . Lmk if I can help the cause.