I've railed here for almost a decade about the town's FAR regulations, which are confusing, ever-changing, punitive and destructive of property values. Worst of all, they've been ineffective, as I and others predicted, in limiting house size. The "attic" rule is one of the most annoying, of the regs, because they deny a homeowner the use of her attic without having any effect on house height or size: you are required to cut chunks out of your roof rafters and support the roof with a lattice work of trusses that, as certified by an engineer, will cause the roof to fail if they're removed. There have always been height restrictions on our houses; this FAR reg doesn't make houses lower, but does distort the roof lines as architects try to squeeze more living space from the two floors permitted, and drive up the cost. Nuts. Grade plain is also crazy, as you can read below.
One change not being proposed now, but should be, is the punitive restrictions on undersized lots. If, for instance, the FAR Czar has determined that 5,880 sq. ft is the ideal size for a house on one acre in the one-acre zone, why should that same acre in the 4-acre zone be limited to 2,722 sq.ft? And so on. For now, that's not even being looked at, though it should be.
In any event, the following from the Greenwich Association of Realtors is self-explanatory I think, but feel free to post comments questions here and we can all have a discussion. Remember, it's not what your neighbor can do with his house that affects your value (assuming he's not operating a cat house), but what can be done with your house. The more that's restricted, the less a buyer will pay. Which is not to say that we shouldn't have zoning governing use and height and setbacks, but if buyer can't do anything with your house, he won't - he'll buy something else.
Here's the petition:
PLEASE GIVE US BACK OUR ATTICS… AND STOP COUNTING OUR BASEMENTS!
Send a message to the Planning and Zoning Commission
Most homes in Greenwich were built prior to 1960. Now, more than a half century later, many could use a facelift.
However, building that needed addition or expanding living space into existing space is harder than ever because layers of regulations have made it difficult for homeowners to make the necessary improvements.
The time is now to change existing zoning regulations to accommodate our natural topography and eliminate excessive fill.
Copy of Letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission:
Greenwich is a wonderful community that we don’t take for granted. There are many reasons we bought homes and decided to raise our families here.
Over time though, as our homes get older, they need upgrades and improvements so that we can age in place and live with modern-day amenities.
However, current zoning regulations make that more difficult than ever.
Simply turning an unused attic into useable space is a hassle, with prohibitive costs involving surveyors, engineers and architects.
With interesting topography including hills, valleys, cliffs and low-lying areas, zoning regulations should be more forgiving with allowing exposure of buildings above grade without it counting toward Floor Area Ratio calculations. People should not need to build retaining walls and make unique lots flat in the process of remodeling a first floor.
That’s why I am asking you to change the existing zoning regulations to streamline the process for improving homes, all the while maintaining the green space and architectural initiatives that matter to Greenwich, just in a less complicated manner.
[Your Name Here]