Thank you for the excellent article in the March 3 issue by Don McHugh about the building craze that has gone unchecked in our community. I would like to think our Mayor, City Council members, members of the Board of Architectural Review, the city planners, and every single real estate agent in town read it, but I hold no illusions. Are Rye’s leaders ever going to realize they are letting developers destroy the character of this town?

Every time I see a “For Sale” sign these days, I snap a picture of the house because the certainty that it will be demolished and replaced with a monster is so great. So much so that when one sells and doesn’t get torn down I want shower the new owners with gratitude. More frustrating than the ominous “For Sale” sign, though, is when a house is just suddenly under demolition, with no warning until the bulldozers appear, because it was sold directly to a developer. Shouldn’t there be some oversight and review before a house, especially an old, charming, and possibly historic one, can be torn down and replaced?

Isn’t there a good chance many of these so-called teardowns might be sold to people willing to do renovations and updates, rather than allowing developers to replace with something that is almost always too large for the lot?

Every house in Rye doesn't have to have six bedrooms, does it? Whatever happened to the idea of a starter home? And what about the many baby boomers that might love to downsize to an affordable cottage, or a ranch with fewer steps to climb? It feels like Rye is telling empty nesters, “Just leave,” and middle-income starter families, “Forget about it.”

When did Rye give free reign to developers to build the monstrosities Mr. McHugh described, on lots way too small for them? These ghastly look-alike behemoths, many of which are built on spec, have no place on the average street in Rye. One need only look at the number of spec houses that have been sitting unsold for six months or longer. Isn’t it time for Rye to just say enough?

It’s not just about the houses either. At a recent Council meeting, Councilwoman Tagger-Epstein mentioned that Rye was once a USA Tree City, but had lost that honor in recent years because of the loss of so many trees. And yet, developers take them down, unrestricted, all over town, or carelessly destroy the roots of whatever few remain, so that they too are eventually dead or dying. The developer responsible for the monster mansion on our block a few years ago not only took down four beautiful trees but undermined the roots of four more that were eventually also lost. How long are we going to continue to let this happen?

Mr. McHugh listed countless reasons why this overbuilding is not good for our city, so I won’t repeat them. But I would urge people to get up in arms about this. Do we really want to see Rye turned into a mini-suburbia, all humongous houses with plastic-looking landscaping, fewer and fewer old-growth trees, no character, no charm, and no history? Because it’s what’s happening. We need to stop it now, or soon, very soon, it's going to be way past too late. 

 

 

— Bonnie Council