5/17/2002, The Rivertowns Enterprise


By Hubert B. Herring, Dobbs Ferry
Reprinted here with permission of the author

To the Editor:

About two years ago, Dobbs Ferry's village board set up a committee to rethink the zoning laws. At the time, when one monstrosity of a house after another had been crammed in next to unsuspecting neighbors, there seemed to be an overwhelming consensus on need for changes. Officials agreed that existing laws had glaring flaws.

One example: Many towns measure the height limit from the midpoint or low point of the slope. We measure from the high point. The result: if a house is built on a steep slope - and we've got plenty of those - a merely big house becomes a hulking four-story monster to downhill neighbors. Believe me, this happens.

The laws on lot coverage, setbacks, total square footage per lot - all equally flawed. At least that's what officials seemed to agree.

Now, alas, the effort seems to have fizzled. No one, apparently, cared enough - or, perhaps, cared more about not alienating developers.

This is disturbing. Much of the town's charm derives from its housing mix - modest houses on smaller lots, bigger houses on larger lots. Allowing McMansions to be jammed in anywhere chips away at that charm.

... [Remainder of original letter, which turned to another subject at this point, is omitted.]