Tag Archives: McMansions

Water, Water Everywhere

An alert (and very worried) “06880” reader is still drying out from Tuesday’s 3.5-inch rainstorm — and the 7-plus inches that cascaded down on Westport just a week earlier. She writes:

I know mine is not the only neighborhood in town suffering from this problem.

Like many others, 2 feet of water caused terrible flooding in our basement last Tuesday. Fortunately it was immediately sucked out by our sump pumps — but the damage was done.

The high water mark on an “06880” reader’s garage is very high.

We have lived in our house for 9 years. We had a similar problem once before, but it only resulted in 4 inches in the basement.

It is my observation — and that of my neighbor, who has lived in her house for 30 years — that this is a progressively worsening problem. It is due to the huge swaths of land that have been cleared, so new homes could be built behind ours.

Where there used to be trees and forest, there is open land. The new houses are bigger than others.

There is nothing to absorb excess water. It just runs over the huge lawns to the lowest point: my driveway.

My drain can’t keep up, so it backs into the basement.

Another view of recent flooding.

My parents — who live in another part of town — have seen huge rivers of rain wash down their road, which they never had in the 30+ years they have lived in their home. They think it may be due to huge houses being built in the neighborhood above theirs.

Is this a larger town issue, with all the new construction and water being diverted as it hadn’t before? Is there a way for me (or anyone else in this situation) to have someone from the town look into this?

If so, who would that be? I know the weather has been more extreme, but I think there is more to it than that. Any insights from “06880” readers would be appreciated.

This Is A Teardown

We see impending teardowns often, on “06880” and WestportNow.

We see the end results — first in the form of vacant lots; later, as much larger structures.

But we seldom see a teardown in progress.

This afternoon, I was driving down Turkey Hill North. Here’s what I saw:

Enjoying a steak dinner is far different from watching a cow get killed. Just as watching a house demolition is not at all like seeing a McMansion rise quickly on empty land.


The Great Age Of Headroom

Sometimes, David Brooks makes me tear out what remains of my hair.

Other times I agree with him so strongly, I wish I’d written his words myself. That happened again last week, when the New York Times columnist wrote that one result of our current economic woes is that “the great age of headroom” has ended.

Yours, for only $5,825,000.

“The oversized now looks slightly ridiculous,” he writes.  “New houses had great rooms with 20-foot ceilings and entire new art forms had to be invented to fill the acres of empty overhead wall space.”

Online, the Times invited experts to respond.

Architecture professors Ellen Dunham-Jones and Jill Williamson said:

Facing the ongoing deflation of the housing bubble, it’s time to dramatically rethink the types and locations of dwellings we build….

For the past 60 years the housing market has catered to boomers with a “move-up” model providing ever-larger houses.  It worked while they were receiving raises and raising families – but not as they approach retirement.  Who wants to upsize now – especially with all of the related costs?  Instead, we see great benefits to a renewed emphasis on the lifelong use value of our homes and neighborhoods for all stages of life.

The downsizing of housing is coming at an opportune time.  Because neither of the big demographic bulges, the Boomers and Gen Y, is in prime child-rearing years, demographers predict that 75 percent to 85 percent of newly formed households through 2025 will not have kids in them.

These will be the folks controlling the market. They will be seeking more compact houses and apartments, flexible in use and located in lively settings, both in cities and in the suburban areas where the most job growth can be expected.

To adapt and prepare for a more resilient future, communities would do well to revise their zoning and subdivision codes: increase street network connectivity and walkability, eliminate lot size minimums, permit accessory dwelling units, and allow for the subdivision of large homes into duplexes, even quads.

Recognize the benefits – from reduced carbon footprints to providing options for “aging-in-community” by older residents – of building well-designed multi-unit housing, including rental, in transit-served locations.

“06880” readers are invited to join the debate.  Some questions to consider:

  • What are the pluses and minuses of super-sized houses?
  • How did these homes become the de facto standard?  Why — in these tough economic times — do they continue to be built?
  • Are they appropriate for Westport?  Will they keep selling in the near future — and longer term, as families grow smaller, and our population ages?
  • If “the great age of headroom” has ended, what will replace the current large houses?  Is another type of housing economically feasible in Westport?
  • Is Westport unique in this debate — or are we just another suburb?

Be thoughtful.  Play nice.  Don’t drag your neighbors through the mud.

The First Of The Season

Westport CT McMansion

After a long winter of dormancy, McMansions are sprouting again around Westport.

The example above — prime new growth — was spotted on High Point Road.

No surer sign of spring — and a reawakening economy — can be found than the bursting forth of fresh large homes.

Quick:  tell Wall Street!