Daily Archives: March 5, 2012

Just as you can’t be required to prove a “good and substantial reason” to vote

Federal court strikes down Maryland’s gun law as an illegal infringement on a constitutional right.

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I blame Cheney

I've captured the Messiah's soul - heh heh heh

He’s baack! And in the White House! Obama declares the right to kill US citizens abroad. Better hope that Obama doesn’t decide you’re a terrorist or you’re dead, long before you can be read your Miranda rights.  I imagine the Hopey Changie crowd is no more pleased with this than they were with the Messiah’s decision to keep Gitmo open. but rather than reflect on the possibility that things out there aren’t as simple as they thought, they’ll just whoop up some irrelevant issue like, say, free birth control pills for co-eds.

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Does this mean we can expect Australians to murder Muslims in Sydney?

A religion of (two) peaces

Libyan Muslims desecrate graves of WW II Australian soldiers.

Amateur video footage of one of the attacks, posted on Facebook, shows armed men, some wearing camouflage, casually kicking over headstones and using sledge hammers to hit the Cross of Remembrance.

One man can be heard saying “this is a grave of a Christian” as he uproots a headstone from the ground.

Another voice says of those buried in the cemetery: “These are dogs.”

Imagine the shock and outrage were Australians to seize Muslims and behead them in retaliation. Why? Because we expect civilized behavior from western civilizations and expect nothing but barbarity from Middle Eastern inhabitants. Is this the “soft bigotry of low expectations” or just the weary recognition of reality, based on sad experience? Ponder that while you wait for the Muslim clerics of Libya to apologize for and demand the trial and punishment of the perpetrators of this impious act.

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The Dollar Bill Agenda?

A good job for this man? What, exactly is he capable of doing?

Who knows what Dollar Bill wants these days, but these certainly sound like goals he’d support, and I know that Brunswick grad Cole Strangler is all for them. Anyway, the news is that the Occupy My Mommy’s Back Yard swarm is gearing up for action, slated to begin just as soon as their schools close the dorms for the summer. Here’s what they demand:

  • Good jobs for all! Economic justice now – Make the banks and corporations pay for their crisis!
  • Money for education, health care, housing and all human needs, not for war and incarceration!
  • Justice for immigrants and all oppressed peoples! Stop the raids and deportations!

God help these losers should “economic justice ever actually prevail. And they fail to define what a “good job” is or who will pay for it, nor what money “for all human needs” is about, but I’m pleased they support “justice for all oppressed peoples”.  That entails bombing Iran and Syria, I assume, invading Zimbabwe and Venezuela – hooray! I do wish there were some evidence, however, that these people are capable of rational thought and can work their drug-addled brain cells to produce more than bumper sticker slogans; adding an exclamation point to a trite message does nothing to make that message meaningful.

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Scum – sucking low lifes to be rescued by Obama

Taxpayers will bail out real estate speculators. (Sent to me by AJ, our reader who loves conspiracy theories and who is beginning to remind me of the adage,”even paranoids have enemies”. )

By widening the program, the plan will inevitably offer aid to buy-and-flip investors who pushed prices higher during the boom by taking out mortgages with little or no down payment. Speculators accelerated the crash because they were quick to default when prices fell, according to a September report from Andrew Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joseph Tracy, and Wilbert van der Klaauw of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

At the peak of the boom in 2006, more than a third of home purchase loans were made to borrowers who already owned at least one house, according to the study. In California, Florida,Nevada, and Arizona, which had the most pronounced bubbles, investors accounted for 45 percent of the mortgages.

While survivors of the property bust are now long-term investors, some of them may have started out as flippers, Haughwout said.

Chandrajit Bhattacharya, an analyst at Credit Suisse Group AG in New York, said that the HAMP changes will result in about 200,000 modifications for investors. While it won’t keep bondholders “up at night,” it will probably slow the process of liquidating foreclosed homes.

Bhattacharya said he doesn’t understand why the government should be subsidizing workouts for property investors who are in the business of making money on their purchases. Vacancies are unlikely to increase if the houses go into foreclosure and are purchased by owner-occupants or new investors who fill them with tenants, he said.

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I just can’t keep up with the ever-changing PC terminology

Didn't get the memo

New Mexico: cop arrested for raping sex workers. Sex workers?! I thought maybe he was raping crisis counselors or something but no, “sex workers” are what were called “prostitutes” not so very long ago. What’s a Honolulu whore house these days, a rest and recreation center?

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Chu on this, suckers

 

Pop!

Energy Secretary says Obumpski will “stay the course”, doubling down on battery cars and algae rather than worry about high gas prices. It’s obvious to me, if not our blighted politicians, that a central government can no more control the price of gasoline than stop the tide, but that doesn’t mean the present administration shouldn’t at least reconsider its opposition to developing new sources of fossil fuels – we need them.

Unless of course your intention is to bankrupt the economy – the Messiah couldn’t be planning that, could he?

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What would Noah do?

 

Wait a minute, gotta check the rules here

Man ordered to remove 72′ boat from his Newport Beach yard. My sympathies are withe the boat restorer and not his cranky neighbors. The man is a genuine boat builder – he built a 118′ schooner before this project, and it’s still sailing, and he started this before the city, doubtless under pressure from his neighbors, enacted an ordinance requiring a special permit for projects such as this in 2009. Eccentrics are rapidly running out of room.

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Hey, kids, I’ve got an idea, let’s put on a show!

Stratford pols want a million bucks from Greenwich state tax payers to reopen Shakespeare theatre.  It may have worked for Mickey Rooney but Shakespeare in Stratford in 2012 is an idea whose time will never come. I liked that theatre and enjoyed a couple of plays performed there. See the show, have a picnic dinner on the lawn looking over the Housatonic and have a nice evening. But the place shut down in the mid-80s and every attempt to reopen it since has failed. Why would it work now, in this era of DVDs and general illiteracy? Another boondoggle, designed to enrich some friend of its proposers and no one else.

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Dying on the vine

I’m sure I’m not the only agent in Greenwich with buyers in the stable so I can’t be the only one frustrated by the lack of decent inventory to at least try to sell. Day after day nothing new is added, just failures from last year’s market dragged back on, still asking the old price that didn’t work then and won’t work now. The few, the very few new listings that are priced at current value are snapped up immediately because there’s nothing else out there to bid on.

Why the dearth? Well clearly, the past few years have not been the time to sell your house if you didn’t have to, so that’s a large part of the explanation but I suspect there’s a large number of owners who can’t afford to sell because their house is worth less than the mortgage and they don’t have the cash to bring to the table to pay off that debt. And then you have those happy campers who have figured out that they’ll never recover what they put into the house so they’ve just stopped paying their debt and are squatting, figuring that three or four years of free rent is their due.

Whatever the reason, there’s slim pickings out there.

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Are they still around?

 

Jesus wept

AOL has just announced that they’re pulling their ads from the Rush Limbaugh show.

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It’s extortion season down in the canyon so as a gentle reminder ….

Democrats blame Wall Street for high gas prices.

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Wonder who’s getting screwed?

CONTRACEPTION MANDATE: Actually a payoff to Big Pharma? “Completely ignored is the more fundamental problem: this mandate is not only about the bedroom, it’s about the boardroom. You’ve heard of crony capitalism? Well this is America’s first example of crony contraceptives. Forget for a minute the religious question and look at who wins big here: Big Pharma. This mandate is not really about condoms or generic versions of ‘the pill,’ which are available free or cheap in lots of places. This is about brand-name birth control drugs and other devices that some consumers swear off because they are too expensive. The Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate requires health-insurance companies provide contraceptive coverage for all ‘FDA approved contraceptive methods.’ It does not insist on generics. And it does not offer any cost containment. . . . It’s important to point out that among President Obama’s biggest financial backers are precisely the Big Pharma companies who benefit from the mandate.”

In my opinion, this whole kerfuffle is about distracting voters from the economic disaster Obummer has overseen during his term and certainly the media has enthusiastically joined him in that effort. Still, if his scheme also enriches his fat cat contributors well, that’s a lovely lagniappe.

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Does size matter?

Bank account, yes; everything else is judged by that - sorry. Greenwich CT

Not when using square footage to estimate a home’s value, according to tax assessors and brokers interviewed in this NYT article (and thank you, Krazy Kat for forwarding it to me.)

Unmeasured areas like a renovated basement or a garage in-law unit — or even a superior location — may account for the higher price the sellers are asking. And that higher price inevitably increases the price per square foot. .

Only in large lookalike housing developments — or in homogeneous neighborhoods like the Highlands in White Plains, where the vast majority of the houses are small prewar colonials and Tudors on similarly sized lots — is price per square foot a relatively reliable measure of value.

Still, as a bargaining tool, price per square foot has been getting a lot of play in recent months. Though often employed in commercial real estate, and in less idiosyncratic residential real estate like condominiums and co-ops, it has of late become “a hot topic in the single-family-home market,” said Chris Meyers, the chief operating officer of Houlihan Lawrence, who described it as “a big driver in many buyers’ decision-making process.”

As a result, some assessors are being besieged by homeowners demanding to know why their price-per-square-foot figures are so high — why upgrades like their finished basement or the heated and fully furnished family room in what was once a garage have been left out of the equation.

“This is driving me crazy,” Michele Casandra, Pelham’s assessor, said recently from under a growing mound of paperwork. “Even if I wanted to change something, I couldn’t, because we follow state regulations and appraisal guidelines. We don’t invent them.”

In Ms. Casandra’s opinion, price per square foot should not even apply to single-family homes in the suburbs because there are too many variables involved. “Maybe in a city when you’re dealing with specifically defined living units without basements or attics,” she said, “but certainly not somewhere like Pelham with such a variety of homes — Victorians, colonials, Tudors that weren’t meant to have basements used as family rooms.”

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Death by a thousand cuts

I’m not questioning the pricing decisions of the owners of 94 Meadow Wood Drive as they’ve tried to sell their house since 2008; people have their own reasons for what they do and I’m not privy to those reasons. I do think that, were I interested in actually selling a property and not just showcasing it for all the world to see for 1,000 days or so, I’d take a different approach.

This house first appeared in 2008, asking $7.150 million. The owners went through eight price cuts, ending at $5.295 million in May, 2011, then raided it to $5.850 million that June. It’s now been dropped two more times and today is marked down to $5.475, still $180,000 above where it wouldn’t sell last May.

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RTM Land Use Committee Contact Information

According to the current RTM information, here are your fellow citizens responsible for the FAR fiasco. Why not drop them a line?

Chairman
Secretary
Vice-Chairman

Delegate District: 1

Alternate District: 1

Delegate District: 2

Alternate District: 2

Delegate District: 3

Alternate District: 3

Delegate District: 4

Alternate District: 4

Delegate District: 5

Alternate District: 5

Delegate District: 6

Alternate District: 6

Delegate District: 7

Alternate District: 7

Delegate District: 8

Alternate District: 8

Delegate District: 9

Alternate District: 9

Delegate District: 10

Alternate District: 10

Delegate District: 11

Alternate District: 11

Delegate District: 12

Alternate District: 12

 


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FAR and regulatory confiscation

The latest land grab by our P&Z continues the process of confiscation of homeowners’ property that has been steadily increasing for the past two decades. The subject is far too long to discuss in just one blog post so I thought I’d break it up into different issues, beginning with the Floor Area Regulation (FAR) themselves.

First implemented to limit the bulk and size of homes with the stated purpose of “preserving the streetscape”.

Tasked by the RTM with establishing regulations to implement this goal, the RTM Land Use Committee worked with staff members of the Planning & Zoning and, after much grunting and squeezing, produced a schedule of size limitations, based on lot size and what, in their opinion, was the ideal maximum size of a house on a given acreage. To accomplish this, they promulgated a “Floor Area Ratio”, the maximum size of a house in each zoning division and calculated by multiplying a lot’s size by a maximum allowable ratio: 

Those ratios were, and still are, as follows:

RA-4 (4 acre zone):    0.0625             10,890 sq. ft

RA2-(2 acre zone):      0.09                    7,840

RA-1 (1 acre zone):      0.135                 5,880.6

R-20 (20,000 sq.ft):   0.225                 4,500

R-12 (12,000 sq.ft):     0.315                 3,780

R-7    (7,000 sq. ft):      0.36                   2,520

To determine the maximum size of a house on your property, you take the actual square footage of your lot and multiply by the applicable ratio. The GAR has an illustration here, but say you’re in the R-1 zone and conveniently have exactly one acre of land. That’s 43,560 sq. ft. and if you multiply that by 0.135, you will obtain the size building the land Use Committee, in its wisdom, has decreed shall be the right-sized house for you: in this case, 5,880.6.

Straight forward, right? But suppose you live on an undersized lot, one smaller than the area prescribed by our zoning laws, which were superimposed on our town long after lots had been created and sold off. Old Greenwich, for instance, has many lots dating back to the days when that area was called “Sound Beach” and was a summer community of weekend houses. many of those lots are well under the 20,000 sq.ft. dictated by R-20 zoning but, until FAR came along, it wasn’t much of a problem. Now it is, because the RTM Land Use Commission has refused to permit any adjustment to their carefully devised formula.

Here’s how that works in practice:

Lot size                Zone                       FAR                       Max. size house this zone                Maximum size house, this lot

12,000                 R-20                       0.225                                        4,500                                                                 2,700

3/4 acre               R-1                          0.135                                        5,880.6                                                              4,410

2 acre                    R-4                          0.625                                       10,890                                                               5,445

Who has just 2 acres in the R-4 Back Country?  Well, lots of people, but certainly anyone who purchased in a “conservation zone”, an area created by, who else?, the RTM Land Use Commission pre -FAR, to encourage builder/developers to cluster homes and leave larger areas of open area. If you bought there, you are limited to a house smaller than that permitted in the one acre zone even though you have twice the land and even though the RTM determined that the ideal house size on one acre was 5,880 sq. ft. and on a 2 acre lot, 7,840.

Do you think the value of your land is not diminished if a buyer is limited to expanding your house to just half the size of your neighbors? You are wrong. Do you suppose that a 2,700 sq. ft. home in Old Greenwich will be as valuable as the 4,500 sq. ft. house down the street? Wrong again. Even if a buyer loves your house exactly the way it is, he will pay less for your property than one that is not non-conforming because its resale value will be less.

Again, if a 5,880.6 sq.ft. house is appropriate for a one acre lot in the one acre zone, why can you only build a 2,772 sq.ft. house on one acre in the four-acre zone? The RTM Land Use Commission refuses to answer this question.

Next up: Garages, Attics

I’ll discuss the FAR’s effect on garages and attics when I revisit this topic – you won’t like what you hear.

It’s impossible to vote out the entire RTM – there already are more openings for members than candidates and these people never leave. But you could try contacting members of the RTM Land Use Commission and letting them know your views. Here are at least some of them:

RTM Land Use Committee

Chairman
Secretary
Vice-Chairman

Delegate District: 1

Alternate District: 1

Delegate District: 2

Alternate District: 2

Delegate District: 3

Alternate District: 3

Delegate District: 4

Alternate District: 4

Delegate District: 5

Alternate District: 5

Delegate District: 6

Alternate District: 6

Delegate District: 7

Alternate District: 7

Delegate District: 8

Alternate District: 8

Delegate District: 9

Alternate District: 9

Delegate District: 10

Alternate District: 10

Delegate District: 11

Alternate District: 11

Delegate District: 12

Alternate District: 12

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Shut down the Ports of New York and New Jersey?

At $400,000 per, I couldda been a contender

Sounds like a great idea to me, when the labor contracts mean 40% of the workforce is paid for not working and many longshoremen are paid $400,000 on a supposed hourly wage of $30 per hours.  while these parasites collect the loot, the Port Authority is spending billions on improving “the infrastructure”. Screw that.

At any given time, some 40 percent of the ports’ work force — which includes terminals in Brooklyn, Staten Island and Newark — is being paid but not actually doing any work, according to testimony at commission hearings two years ago. In some cases, union contracts specifically state that some positions — like checkers and timekeepers — are on the clock as long as the employees they oversee are working.

“These people don’t have to be at the pier. They don’t even have to be in the state,” said Walter Arsenault, executive director of the commission. “They get paid as if they are working.”

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Fun charts

What’s gone up, what’s gone down when calculated in gold? Some interesting charts here.

Depressed, priced in gold:

gasoline

coffee (and all groceries)

Yale tuition (back to 1900 level!)

And more:

DJA

Houses

Economy

Hourly wage

U.S. Dollar

What’s increased against gold?

Nothing

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