One of the world's greatest tyrants is the busy-body. Individually or in groups they are relatively harmless should they limit themselves to grousing over the Times at Starbucks. But when they assume power through membership of government or quasi-governmental agencies, their busy-bodiness is no longer amusing or tolerable. They use their power through government to coerce anyone in their way that offends their heightened sensitivities.
One such area that they have asserted their tyranny is over property rights.
In an article in the New Jersey section of the NYT by George James
, we see how busy-bodies have asserted control in home sizes. “McMansions…” throughout NJ (and the rest of the country) irk busy-bodies. For some reason, they believe people should live in small homes built 50 or more years ago instead of homes people desire to live in.
Here are some scary quotes from busy-bodies:"What people may be objecting to is the fact these homes are so out of sync with the traditional style and character of their towns," said Tim Dillingham, executive director of the American Littoral Society, an environmental group. "I think people recognize that a sense of place is very important and that at some level the negative reaction to these teardowns and out-of-scale houses is a reaction to that sense of place being destroyed."
Weren’t the homes built 50 years ago “out of sync with the traditional style” of those built centuries ago? Where are today’s outhouses?In 2002, a report sponsored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, "Taming the Teardown Trend," said that demolitions were approaching "epidemic proportions" in historic neighborhoods, and that 100 communities in 20 states had experienced significant numbers of teardowns.
An “epidemic” of large expensive homes? Oh, that Zimbabwe or Nigeria should be so lucky to have such “epidemics”.Former Gov. James E. McGreevey came up with a plan to inhibit the growth of oversize houses when he reached for the word McMansions in his 2003 State of the State address and attacked them as contributing to "mindless sprawl."
Should we say Former Gov. McGreevey who was forced to leave office in scandals of monumental corruption? This genius sought to limit through taxation (the busy-bodies favorite way to assert their personal tastes) of $1 million homes. In NJ that is a $400,000 everywhere else."The houses make it a hazard for the children...and aesthetically, they're an eyesore.” Says Livio Mancino, a former mayor of Kenilworth upset with the proliferation of oversize houses
Mancino has watched many shows on HG-TV and knows eye-sores when he sees them.Rising home prices are no friend of first-time buyers. Jeffrey Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, contended that the boom in teardowns and oversize houses was keeping buyers out of the market and middle-class families out of some towns that were once within their financial reach. "It squeezes the middle class and even the upper middle class," Mr. Tittel said. "A family of four making $150,000 a year can't afford a million-and-a-half-dollar home."
Maybe that family making $150,000 could afford a home if they were able to keep another 5-10% of their income from the tax man. The Sierra Club is so caring for home-buyers that they regulate every puddle as wetlands to stop developers from building. Great humanitarians.
But then we do hear from an economist representing the home builders. According to Michael Carliner, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders, the average lot size has gone down in square footage from 17,600 in 1987 to 15,788 in 2003."I think it's a change in culture and fashion," Mr. Carliner said. "People are willing to accept a small lot for more house."
And the free market allows people to follow their desires. Says Mrs. Harkins of the NJ Builder Association, such zoning restrictions "could drive away home buyers and builders wanting to do business in these towns."They would look elsewhere," she said. "They probably would not invest significantly in those municipalities." Dr. Lang of Virginia Tech carried that thought further. "If you have houses built in the 1970's when 2,000 square feet was a lot of room and you set that against the modern standard which is 3,000 feet and larger, and then you frustrate the market's development, you may not be that upscale a town forever," Dr. Lang said. "You're also pushing people into new construction somewhere else rather than infill housing."
However, this busy-body has an opinion.For his part, Ron Emrich, executive director of Preservation New Jersey, dismissed such reasoning and said people needed a sense of place that oversize houses could not give.
So this "place" that people need to "sense" cannot be experienced in large homes?
But, of all people, a town lawyer placed the issue in perfect perspective:"A McMansion means different things to different people," Mr. Zenn said. "My definition of a McMansion is not your definition. You may say the ugly house with all kinds of turrets is a McMansion. I can say it's just in bad taste."
House size is a matter of choice. People decide how big a home they can afford and want to live in. Different taste is no reason that one group should deny others what they wish. If traditional homes with 2 bedrooms 10’ by 11’ and the master bedroom at 12’ by 14’ are what you want, buy it and enjoy. But, I call forcing your tastes on another tyranny.