Kudos to Don McHugh for his thoughtful article on McMansions in Rye… “The Character-Changing Consequences of the Building Craze on Our Community.” As a former member of Rye’s Board of Architectural Review (1990-2001), I can confirm that in the early ’90s we too saw it happening, and we did what we could to inhibit excessive size. Under the leadership of BAR chairs (the late) Wendy Rolland and then Nick Everett, and with Planning Commission collaboration, we tightened the rules for calculating permissible floor area (for example, by requiring that two-story entry halls be counted as two floored spaces).  

Loss of privacy is prominent among the “character-changing consequences” of ballooning houses Mr. McHugh has identified. He mentions how his neighbor’s house looms over the six-foot fence that separates their backyards; he fails to note, however, the character-changing consequence of the fence itself. In the 1990s, as megamansions were blooming throughout Rye, we were also seeing more and more six-foot fences, as homeowners sought to scratch back a few feet of privacy.  This bothered the BAR, not so much for aesthetic reasons as for its predictable social impact — increased isolation of neighbors and an erosion, however subtle, in our sense of neighborhood and community. Sadly, today, fences, walls, higher hedges – and gates – increasingly define Rye.  

 

— Otto Spaeth