No Mo’ “Mansions”

I don’t blog much about local news, but given the basic points of the progressive blog report, perhaps I’d better start. I wrote earlier about the building moratorium under consideration in Chevy Chase, MD — a suburb just outside D.C. — so the city council and others could figure out how to deal with the "mansionization" issue. Well, I almost titled this post "Chevy Chase Cuts Own Throat," because city official went ahead an approved the moratorium.

The town of Chevy Chase, a prosperous enclave in Montgomery County, voted unanimously last night to adopt a six-month moratorium on the demolition of houses, construction of homes and large-scale renovations.

Even as builders prepared lawsuits to challenge it, the town’s five-member council adopted the measure to allow time to consider ways it might control "mansionization" and its effects in the 1,032-home neighborhood where Cape Cods, colonials and the occasional 1970s-era rambler are rapidly being replaced by houses two or three times as large.

…While communities across the Washington region are experiencing the same pressures from development and the real estate market, Chevy Chase is among a few jurisdictions to impose such a moratorium in recent years.

The measure includes an exemption for economic hardship and accidents such as a fire and excludes smaller additions. It would not affect projects for which town building permits have been issued.

First, a big sigh of relieve, because the moratorium doesn’t affect work on our house, because the permits have already been obtained and the walls are already going up. (I have that on good authority. The hubby, who’s seen the progress this week. Pictures will follow this weekend.) But it it already affecting some building projects.

My bet is that few, if any properties are going to be sold in Chevy Chase during the next six months, and the ones that are sold will be relatively newly-built properties — say, ten to 15 years old. But how may of the other properties are like the one we bought? With a house on it that wouldn’t exactly suit our family’s needs, and wasn’t really worth preserving or expanding upon? If potential owner’s can’t tear them down or do anything else for at least six months, and may not be able to do what they want after the moratorium is lifted, why bother buying in the first place?

I think it’s going to give people cold feet about moving to Chevy Chase, and that may be Chevy Chase’s loss, because property values — in terms of the value of the land a house is sitting on — are not going to go down, given the vicinity of Chevy Chase to D.C., and the possibilty of having "the best of both worlds, city and suburbs." But people who can afford property that close to the city aren’t going to be willing to buy if they can’t build to suit their needs. And with possible restrictions on height and the percentage of the lot a house can cover, and requirements like having to leave a certain percentage of exterior walls standing, it’s unlikely that many will be able to build anything that will suit their needs.

But here’s the kicker. Just how big of a problem is "mansionization"? Well, this is from the beginning of the article.

…the town’s five-member council adopted the measure to allow time to consider ways it might control "mansionization" and its effects in the 1,032-home neighborhood where Cape Cods, colonials and the occasional 1970s-era rambler are rapidly being replaced by houses two or three times as large. [emphasis added]

Got that? Just over 1,000 homes. How many have been "mansionized"?  This is from the end of the article.

According to Chevy Chase town records, 55 houses have been demolished since 1997. Many more have been substantially renovated, and it is difficult these days to find any block that does not have at least one house under construction, wrapped in silvery Tyvek with a porta-potty on the front lawn.

OK. So I did the math, and ran it by the hubby just to make sure that it was right. We’re talking about 5% of the houses in the area being torn down. And yes, more have been renovated, often by owners who wanted ot sell, and knew enough to know they had to expand if they wanted to get top dollar.

Now, no more construction, no sales, more new neighbors. No more "mansions."

When the wannabe suburbanites go elsewhere with their dollars, we’ll see how long this whole thing lasts.  

About Terrance

Black. Gay. Father. Buddhist. Vegetarian. Liberal.
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