Friday, April 13, 2007

Supersize My House!

Cutely dubbed "McMansions", these houses are a concern to older communities everywhere. So just what is "Mansionization"? Mansionization is the phenomenon that occurs when unusually large homes are built, replacing smaller homes in existing neighborhoods. Communities like Mt. Rainier come to mind.

So what's the big deal?

It boils down to property rights versus the rights of neighbors and the community as a whole. I may hate that huge house and how out of place it looks in my neighborhood, but do I have a right to restrict the owner's use of his property?

On the other hand, does that owner have the right to change the character of the community, to impact the community economically in terms of higher taxes, increasing property values and maybe even forcing some residents to move to more affordable areas -- these are all justifiable concerns.

Why do I write about this on a preservation blog? Because there are communities without the protection of historic designations or that are not located in a municipality (which may have a little more clout), that still have historic value and character.

Personally, I fall on the side of property rights, but it's an uneasy place for me to be. I value these older communities; I like them better than the cookie-cutter new subdivisions. I enjoy the sense of community that I get just from driving through. It's jarring to drive past charming old bungalows, then come upon a huge modern monstrosity that sticks out like a sore thumb.


I also know the feeling of wanting something new and more accomodating, but I don't want to leave my neighborhood. I long for larger closets, bigger bathrooms and not walking sideways to get past my bed to the door.

I'm not sure what the answer is. For me, it may be tearing down my house (which has no historic value what-so-ever) and building something in keeping with the sizes and styles of my neighbors houses. But it will still be bigger than what I have now, and therefore bigger than my neighbors houses.

Whatever I do, I'll try to keep it reasonable. Meanwhile, I'll continue to agonize over my choices. I just know that moving to another community is at the bottom of my list.

But for sure, there are no easy answers.

--Susan Pruden

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