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Letter: More Preservation Efforts Needed

One of the prettiest homes in Norgate will soon be demolished (and may have been by this printing), a quaint and modest yellow-and-brown home on Laurel Lane. One extraordinary, towering old tree next to it is also marked for destruction.

For the next months, our street will be a construction zone, not a peaceful residential neighborhood. I don’t think anyone is happy about this kind of activity. I would like to help organize an effective movement to change it.

The aesthetics of Norgate, like other circa 1940 upper-income developments like nearby Plandome, were serene, modest, and semi-classical in an English country and New England style. Homes were surrounded by greenery and were set off from their neighbors for privacy and quiet. (I grew up here in the 1960s, when this was unquestioned.)

Now money rules over modesty and village government permits it. In Norgate, one resident’s backyard all but disappeared and the home towers over the property line. Another resident filled in a charming little fish-pond, built a deck that filled half the yard, expanded the back of their home with floor-to-ceiling windows, and cut down hedges that had screened their yard.

We can no longer avoid the intrusion of the neighbors into our consciousness because of their homes’ visual, audible, olfactory, and physical aggression into what had been a relatively quiet and private property. But the current law no longer protects us or others.

Now demolition and re-building is the widespread trend, here and in neighboring communities. We have an “architectural review” process but it is laughable. The permitted new designs are typically boxy, cheap, oversized, over-lighted and gaudy. It is all about maximizing space – and sometimes dubious “stylishness” — and minimizing cost.

The laws should be revised to preserve buffers between homes and halt the demolition practices. Local “landmarking” is one option. Residents can try themselves to prevent new owners from destroying the neighborhood once they leave by adding architectural covenants to their deeds. Tax incentives or other compensation can be explored.

I urge whoever in Norgate or elsewhere is interested in working on this issue to visit my website Planet-in-Peril.org and contact me through there or otherwise.

Richard Brummel