Coping with McMansions

In Fredericksburg, people are getting upset by a trend of gauche new residents tearing down old houses and replacing them with McMansions. Such tension is inevitable in a growing region where property parcels in traditional, small-town neighborhoods are a scarce commodity. As property values rise in these desirable settings, new owners want their house to match the price they paid for the land. Why shouldn’t they be able to build what they want?

But the reaction is understandable as well. A hulking monster can visually overwhelm its smaller neighbors and disrupt the scale and sight-lines that made the neighborhood desirable in the first place. What is a City Council person to do?

Reports the Free Lance-Star: A proposed ordinace would regulate the dimensions of a new house: the maximum height and the percentage of the lot it covers.

City planners found that most homes in Fredericksburg neighborhoods have two stories or fewer. The ordinance would bring the maximum building height in residential districts down from 35 feet to 27 feet to try to keep new houses more in line with existing ones.

Planners also looked at maps and found that most city homes cover between 10 and 30 percent of the lots they stand on. To keep new homes within that norm, the city is proposing that new homes cover no more than 25 percent of a lot.

Property owners would be able to seek a special use permit to go beyond the height and coverage limits, but would have to show that exceeding those would not adversely impact their neighbors.

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6 responses to “Coping with McMansions”

  1. Spank That Donkey Avatar
    Spank That Donkey

    so the pesky little ‘Sims’ are trying to escalate property values by redeveloping existing housing?

    Two issues historic preservation and gentrification need to be addressed…. but dear Lord, does the govt. need to step in & keep the market from improving land already zoned for housing?

    How about being glad people are reinvesting in an urban area… at least they are not afraid of the school system… something must be going right?

  2. Where is the Bacon’s Rebellion anti-zoning crowd when you need them?

    Where are the property rights bigots?

    Where are the devotees of Houston?

    Also, gotta love “NIMBY – speak”. We need to preserve the sight lines!

  3. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Fredericksburg-ites tend to have strong feelings about their neighborhoods and those elected to represent them, pay attention – or not at their own peril…

    but.. point taken.. about the fine line between stagnation and blight.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    This is happening in my Alexandria Neighborhood. Near me is a new home that must be 9000 sq ft, directly next to a cottage that might be 400 sq ft. The contrast is stunning, but somehow I doubt the guy that owns the cottage is too upset.

    It does seem that building right out to the property lines and 50 feet high in a residential area isn’t necessary, but when do we legislate good taste?


  5. Don’t get me started. I live here in the city and I can’t believe the city is going to downzone my property in such a blatent way. 35ft is not a lot of building height, and now they want to limit it to 27. Yet they have done nothing to restrict the type of architecture I can use. The proposed ordinance also adds land coverage restrictions, and expands the number of lots that have to be considered for alternative setback calculations.

    If you read the new ordinance, it is much more confusing than what was there before. Hopefully City Council will revise the ordinance before voting it in. Ideally, I would like for them to put it in the circular file next to the desk. Does correcting “big” really fix a character issues? What happened to free-market and property rights?

  6. It’s official, the ordinance is going to the City Council for discussion.

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