Daily Archives: November 7, 2013

Well he’s clearly a commie rat bastard, so why should he be trusted with children?

FWIW’s Peg sends along this story about some guy being declared an unfit father because he wouldn’t take his kid to McDonalds. Peg thinks that’s wrong, and in fact seems quite exercised about it.

Excuuuuse me? Hello out there, Peg. This man denies a child – a little, soft, cuddly child, a Happy Meal, and you don’t think that exposes him as a communist atheist who hates America? Good lord, woman, wake up and smell the coffee; you’re beginning to sound like Pal Joey.

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Another quirk in Tesei’s Rules

"What do I do as First Selectman? Boy that's a tough one."

“What do I do as First Selectman? Boy that’s a tough one.”

A lawyer who wishes to remain anonymous because he has to deal with Diane Fox, Peter Tesei’s choice to head our P&Z staff, points out this little kicker in FEMA regs as interpreted by our P&Z employees:

Scenario: you are in the AE zone, 8′ above base flood level, and you are 7′ below compliance height (6′ FEMA, 1 ‘ to grow on courtesy of the Tesei bunch). You’ve never spent a dime on improvements on the house since you built in 1986 and, because it’s a lovely house, it – the house, not the land it sits on – has an appraised value of $1,000,000. That means you can spend $500,000, half that appraised value, on improvements without having to jack the house 7’ into the air, right?

Like an old man’s scent, it depends. If you have it in mind to bump out the kitchen to add a 15X15 breakfast nook, say, or perhaps a small library or, God forbid, an entire wing, you’re screwed: Diane and her crowd insist that if you leave the existing footprint, whatever you add must be built to comply with the new FEMA code, regardless of your allowable 50% budget. You want that breakfast nook? Bring a ladder, because it will be hovering seven feet above your cereal bowl. Same with that library and that wing? It just took off, soaring to the heavens. In other words, if you buy a non-complying house, you are buying, and stuck with,  its exact footprint as it exists now – no adding on unless, of course, you bring a pogo stick to the table.

Does FEMA require this? Absolutely not. Does Diane? Absolutely yes. And by his acquiescence, so too does First Selectman Peter Tesei. I think that, just as our president has claimed ObamCare as his own, we should start referring to the FEMA code  as interpreted and enforced by Tesei’s staff as TeseiRegs. Just a suggestion.

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A trickle of real estate news

18 Cat Rock

18 Cat Rock

Two sales, one accepted offer.

18 Cat Rock Road, $630,000. As its price suggests, this was pretty rough.

11 Millpond Court

11 Millpond Court

11 Mill Pond Court, on the other hand, was in beautiful shape and its results reflected that, selling for $1.315 after just 14 days on the market. The previous record for the street, so far as I can tell, was $905,150 (bidding war on a house priced at $879,000) in 2004. These sellers paid $725,000 in November, 2007 and lovely as the work they did is, it appears that they made out quite well on this project. Good for them; Mill Pond’s a nice little street and this is a good house.

46 Bowman Drive

46 Bowman Drive

46 Bowman Drive, over in King Merritt acres, asked (after dropping its initial price)  $1.495 million, and now reports an accepted offer. I thought this was a half-assed rehab job that was still grossly overpriced at $1.495 but apparently I was wrong, again. So it goes; it’s tough to get these things right all the time.

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FEMA zones in a nutshell

Awaiting rescue by the P&Z

Awaiting rescue by the P&Z

While it is true that FEMA flood regulations have been with us for decades (1974?), the latest round of height increases to reflect the (non-existent) rise in global warming waters has brought many  homes into non-comliance with those regs and thus subject to the requirements that they brought up to “proper” height. That’s stilts, baby.

So if your home is now in the direct-wave-action zone – “VE”, or the next zone lower, “AE”, it must be a specific height above what they call the “base flood level” but which, for these purposes, I’ll refer to the mean high water mark – solely because that’s a term people are more familiar with and although the two are different, either will serve the illustrative purpose I’m trying to achieve.

So: If your house sits, say, 8′ above sea level, and the new AE zone requirements demand that it sit at 13′, your house is non-compliant. If you wish to complete a project that costs more than 50% of the value of the house – not the total value, land and house, but just the structure itself – you must not only bring your house up to 13′, you must go to 14′ because – I kid you not, Diane Fox and her partner in folly Denise Savageau, a large (her size suggests that she’s emitting far more CO2 than ought to be allowed) environmentalist unassociated with the Planning & Zoning Department but who comes over from her own department to meddle,  have drunk deeply from the Al Gore Kool-Aid cup and are both convinced that we’ll be drowning under 50′ higher waters by 2040,and have arbitrarily added an extra foot to the FEMA requirements. With more to come, Fox warns.

Remember, the 50% rule applies only to the structure: a $1,500,000home in Old Greenwich might easily be comprised of land worth $1,250,000 and a house appraised at $250,000. If so, your improvement budget is $125,000 less anything spent on that house since, again per Fox fiat, 1986. Exceed that amount and you must either raise or raze the house – Fox and her flunky Katie DeLuca have expressed their strong intention that it be razed and replaced. “You can raze it or relocate,” say DeLuca, and presumably, having just sold your home for its land value alone, the next owner will build a new house. Hope you enjoy Florida, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on your way out.

How do you raise your 8′ above sea level to the new  mandatory/minimum of 14′?  Stilts: you must go up 6′. You might think you could just jack up the house build a new, higher foundation and let the house back down to rest on it. This will likely run you afoul of FAR regulations, another Greenwich invention that limits the size of houses. If you somehow avoid that, or even if you go the stilt route, you have to deal with the 35′ height cap. How do you feel about a flat roof?

And so on. And here’s how it affects your property value: First, not everyone wants to live in a house whose first floor is 14′ off the ground – it makes carrying infants and groceries a real pain, and should elderly parents want to come visit well, there’s always the Hyatt. Second, assuming you are willing to live with your 1984 kitchen and the four bedroom, two bath configuration of your present house, will the next owners share your taste? And even if they do, will they want to pay you for  house that can never be modified or improved again without tearing it down and starting over? Face it, you have almost certainly just experienced the complete loss of the value of your existing house.

Is every house in, say, the VE zone afflicted this way? Not necessarily, but that’s why you as a seller and certainly if you’re a potential buyer should get a flood elevation certificate prepared by a surveyor to determine the exact height of the existing structure. If it’s 15′ above “sea level”, you’re okay, until Fox and Savageau raise the minimum again. You can modify, modernize to your heart’s delight. But the odds are pretty good that the house is not compliant, in which case, you are well and truly screwed.

There’s lots more, but that should be enough to alert you to the difficulties and issues involved. Be wary.

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