Who wants another 4,000 square foot McMansion on Marion Road? Not my friends Wei-Chi Chen and I-Chen Mei. They have a large lot. Rather than sell it to downsize — so that someone can build a McMansion on their property — they plan to build two smaller houses, one for themselves in retirement and one for an offspring. Sounds ideal, right?
But this couple faces opposition. The Planning Board meeting is tonight, May 5, 7:30 p.m. at 400 Witherspoon Street, details here. I’ll be there.
I’m against McMansions as much or more than anybody (see this U.S. 1 story), but I have big questions about new rules being rushed through Princeton Council that aim to curb them.
Says architect Marina Rubina, who lives in the Witherspoon-Jackson neighborhood, “Our elected officials decided to take on the issue of “tear downs and McMansions” and solve it in one month without thinking it through or giving the public a chance to weigh in. The problem is that what they are proposing won’t stop McMansions, but will hurt a lot of people and lower income people much more than others.”
Here’s a quick read: the opinion of Walkable Princeton, an organization I respect. It has links to the ordinances presented at council last week. An excerpt:
Unfocused restrictions on FAR will have some effect on reducing the numbers of ‘McMansions’, but it will also make it harder for people to build rooms for aging parents, or to sell their homes at full value. A stealth downzoning appears to be underway, in the rush to be seen to be doing something about development that many residents consider ‘ugly’ or ‘not fitting the neighborhood’. But for many homeowners, the new restrictions may prove costly in the long-term.
It’s complicated. I can’t decide. But we can all ask Princeton Council to take more time to decide. Council meets at 7 pm tonight (November 30) on another matter and is supposed to vote on Monday, December 7. Come to either meeting or send a note to somebody on council with the message “WAIT . . .. LISTEN” before you take a vote.