Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's the opposite of 'green'? Maybe this?

(Update Sept. 21: See "Demolition, part two" for an update on the owner's plans to build a new house on the site.)

Some days I think I should have a contest for the Anti-green. This would probably win for the month. Maybe the year.

The attractive, two-story, 3,161-square-foot home, built in 1941 was assessed for tax purposes at $331,900 (the total parcel, including the land, is assessed at $778,800). I walked past it a few weeks ago and spotted the bulldozer.

When I walked past it today, here's what it looked like:

I don't know the owners' plans. The demo permit says: "Total res demo - No Build Back."

Demolition is extraordinarily wasteful, and not just of materials. As Time magazine has written: "It would take an average of 65 years for the reduced carbon emissions from a new energy efficient home to make up for the resources lost by demolishing the old one." And that's IF you build a new, green home.

This waste is unconscionable. Yet there's nothing to stop it other than owners' consciences. And many people don't know about, or don't care about, wasting resources.

This lot is next door to another vacant lot, where another large and attractive home was demolished by a builder several years ago, right before the housing market imploded.

In my opinion the city should stop allowing demolitions until there is a building permit in hand for whatever is going to replace it. Now THAT would be green. We'd have saved plenty of useful (and affordable) houses and buildings over the years if that policy had been in place.


Anonymous said...

I really hate how transplants have moved here and torn down a lot of our houses, a lot of our history, just because they want a bigger bathroom and more room for all of their entitlement brats. Enough is enough! Please, can we stop this waste and demolition madness.

Dustin said...

I agree that demolition permits shouldn't be issued until building permits for the replacement are issued. But I would even take it a step further. I'm not sure about the legalities affecting this, but I don't think a demolition permit should be issued until the financing for the replacement is in place (or at least substantially in place). There are plenty examples of developers demolishing buildings that they fully intend to replace, only to fall short in securing the money necessary to build. (Think 300 South Tryon, which has languished, void of anything other than a parking lot, for over a decade now.)

Anonymous said...

But Mary, we want taxpayers to move into Mecklenburg County, especially ones that have enough money to build a new house. Make it too difficult or too expensive and they move elsewhere, and your city turns into one big slum...
That house in the picture is nothing special. It is just a wood frame house built in 1941 - old and leaky and creaky and dirty and expensive to maintain.
It almost seems like you want to take freedom of choice away from people and have commitees or boards or agencies decide where we live.

Anonymous said...

I too hate to see lovely old homes torn down, but before totally condemning this I'd like to know a few more facts. What was the condition of this house? Did it have mold problems? Was the wiring updated? How about the plumbing? How many bathrooms did it have and what was their condition? And what was the space configuration? As beautiful as older homes can be sometimes they have problems that would be extraordinarily expensive to fix. My father remains in his home of sixty years and although he has maintained it fairly well it would probably take more than its assessed value to bring it up to modern standards. My son and his wife live in a 30's house and, while charming, it is a money pit!
I'm also curious about the location and size of this house and lot. From its assessed evaluation I am assuming it is not in suburbia, but somewhere north of Fairview Rd, fairly close to uptown (Myers Park maybe?). This was a large house, about the size of many suburban houses that are so frequently criticized. It also apparently has a rather large lot, again a criticism of suburban homes. Perhaps it would be better for density (and the environment) to build two or four or more houses on this lot. Better yet, how about some mixed income housing. That way the tear down would go to a good cause.

Anonymous said...

Property Rights, Mary. Look into 'em.

Mary Newsom said...

Anonymous 10:31: That's a good point. In this instance the tax listing says that in 2006 the property was graded "Very Good." It has three bedrooms, four full baths, and the tax listings document "remodeled and/or new addition" in 1995.

And yes, if the property were to be torn down and a high density project including affordable housing were built, that would be something to consider. The neighborhood in question, however, typically has deed restrictions that forbid more than one residence on a lot.

As to the property rights comment, no property rights are unlimited. The rights in this instance are constricted by, among other things, single-family zoning, which forbids more than 3 single-family houses per acre and forbids any multifamily buildings. Seems to me that infringes on rights more than a provision saying you can't tear it down until you know what you're going to do with it would. (If they want to start farming the lot, or create a community garden, hey, that's OK, too. My guess is that is not what's going to happen.)

Anonymous said...

Ms. Newsom,

I guess I missed the part of the story that stated the owner of this property was going to build more than three single family homes per acre or build a multifamily residence. Oh that's right, the owner ISN'T going to do ANY of those things, but since you didn't have a logical retort to my property rights question, you just pulled some garbage from your middle back pocket.

Mary Newsom said...

Anonymous 1:30:
I didn't call your opinion "garbage" and I'd appreciate the same courtesy.

I only published your comment so I could warn you the next time you use insulting language to ANYONE here, not just me, your comment won't be published. You're free to have any opinions you like, and I prefer to see differing opinions here, because that makes it more interesting. But insults and incivility won't be tolerated.

Anonymous said...

I am anonymous 10:31 and I will have to admit that the mixed income housing was a bit tongue in cheek. However, as to property rights and density restrictions I think that argument can go both ways. If you have the right to build anything you want on your property, exercising that right can very much affect your neighbor's property and its value (and perhaps his quality of life), even if you think what you are doing is for the greater good of the community (i.e. building mixed use housing in an all single family neighborhood to "diversify" the neighborhood). Of course those who tear down houses and build super sized ones are also affecting their neighbor's quality of life (I have a friend whose Southpark area home now has a totally shaded back yard thanks to the tall addition added behind him.).
I grew up in Cincinnati which has some very old once elegant neighborhoods--I haven't seen anything like them in Charlotte. But those beautiful old graceful houses gradually were allowed to be subdivided for apartments or torn down to be replaced by apartment buildings. These elegant old neighborhoods became slums and for the most part still are slums (there's been a little gentrification here and there).
There certainly are no easy answers.

Anonymous said...

Cincinnati, eh? I used to live in Price Hill in a victorian-style 1900-era home near a large Catholic High School. It was about a 3000 sqft brick house (they really used to build them like that).

It's the last time we'll ever try to "gentrify" anything with our presence. We learned our lesson.

Some places just aren't worth it.

Anonymous said...

Poor Price Hill. My father's favorite restaurant is Primavista at the top of Price Hill. When we took him there to celebrate his 90th birthday last fall I was shocked at how the neighborhood had declined (I hadn't been there for many years). Still a great restaurant with a fabulous view, but approaching the building after dark is a little scary. I would agree that gentrification would be very difficult there.

Jumper said...

This seems an odd situation, to tear down with no rebuild permit.

In addition, I think there are a lot of renovation options many contractors don't think of - they've never seen large vacuum trucks employed behind wall spaces or to empty attics of really old insulation,etc. and never seen a house jacked up just to do repairs underneath, etc. I believe in innovative options.

I'm glad you have learned of the awful costs of demolition. One house is not so bad, but larger structures cause horrible wear on the streets, noise, significant air pollution from heavy diesel equipment, etc., just like new construction does.

The twisted and wasteful culture of planned obsolescence has tried to invade the building paradigm for too long. I have known carpenters who worked in Europe restoring 400-year old homes. Buildings can be made to last and if they can last, more thought should be given to saving them. And owners should learn more about maintenance and renovation.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't you take a picture of the Charlotte Fire Department who did two days of training in this house prior to its demolition? Thanks to the homeowners, 11 fire stations in the surrounding area are now better trained for search and rescue in a smoke filled residence. This is for the greater good of the entire community. You should have all of the facts and information before you condemn people in a public forum.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps as a follow up, and in the interest of telling another side of this story, you can interview the framers, roofers, plumbers, dry wall hangers, cabinet makers, electricians and landscapers who are working on this project. Last time I checked, there were one or two unemployed folks in Charlotte. Maybe you can ask them how it feels to be able to put food on the table for their families, write tuition checks and put a little bit away for the future. Next time you take a walk, wander past the unemployment office and ask the people in line how they feel about this project.

consultant said...


Don't worry. With the long slide we're in, nature will reclaim this lot in no time.