23 Aug 2014
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'McMansions' Regulations Haunt House Builder Applicant

Reed Whipple needed an exemption for lot-coverage regulations passed over a decade ago to restrict the construction of oversized houses.

'McMansions' Regulations Haunt House Builder Applicant

The Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously approved the modification of a prior zoning decision on a house caught between regulations passed years ago to curb the construction of oversized homes known as “McMansions.”

Builder Reed Whipple requested an exemption for the lot coverage restriction involving only 263 square feet for a spec house he plans to build at 13 Bryon Ave.

Architect Doug MacMillan, who presented the proposed exemption, said the lot was originally created and zoning approved for the house in 2005 at the peak of the pre-recession real estate boom. But when the recession hit the housing market, the house was never built.

Several years earlier, Ridgefield adopted stricter lot coverage regulations following complaints that many new residences were oversized for their lots. The oversized homes were wryly nicknamed “McMansions” or “starter castles.”

But some builders’ efforts to get around the new regulations resulted in large homes that lacked any interesting design details, so sometime after the site plan for 13 Bryon Ave. was approved, new regulations were approved that changed the way lot coverage was calculated.

MacMillan said Whipple wanted to move the garage and attach it to the house in order to redesign the driveway layout to make the new spec house more attractive.

Whipple explained that as the real estate market improved, marketing priorities for the property have changed. Relocating the garage was part of that reassessment.

But the applicant learned that his new design conflicted with the new lot coverage regulations, thus necessitating an exemption.

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