‘McMansion’ doesn’t belong in historic neighborhood, group says
EVERETT - Should a house that meets city code replace another in a historic district despite being more than twice as large as all the houses around it?
That is the question mark hovering over plans for 1102 Grand Avenue that will be answered by city hearing examiner James Driscoll. Driscoll is expected to make his ruling by Feb. 7. Arguments were made last week.
The city approved the architectural plans for the house in October. The architectural plan provided by Harv and Jan Jubie shows a 3,883-square-foot house hearkening to a 1920s design that meets all of the city’s standards. Most of the homes on the block are about 1,500 square feet and built before 1950, according to data provided by Historic Everett president Valerie Steel.
Historic Everett and representatives from three historic overlay zones want Driscoll to halt the project. The Jubies’ plan violates historic zoning code and takes away a historic home to introduce a “McMansion” on the block, Steel said. Opponents argue the new house would block a public view of Port Gardner Bay on the bluffs of Grand Avenue, and the city’s decision sets an unwanted precedent for historic zones.
The city in its rebuttal statement sums up the opponents’ case as complaining the new house is too big.
“It needs to be shown the decision was contrary to law, and that is not the case here,” city attorney Ramsey Ramerman said.
Ramerman held tight that the Jubies’ proposal has enough architectural elements to meet code requirements to accept the design. “The requirements are minimal” but were met, Ramerman said.
Planning director Allan Giffen “relied on a rigid application of the code” to make his decision, Steel said. The decision should be based on the “spirit” of the code, including its historical tenets, Steel said.
“(T)he language and intent of the Rucker-Grand Historic Overlay Zone requires the Planning Director consider the actual compatibility of the proposed structure with the neighborhood, neighboring houses, and zone as a whole,” the opponents’ appeal reads.
The city’s historic zoning code is inadequate, Steel said. For example, the code never requires a new home to conform to the size of homes around it, just in appearance. Steel said the proposed home’s architectural features are not enough.
“What’s the mitigation here?” Steel told the Tribune. “An eyebrow window, a little porch … it doesn’t mitigate the mass of it.” The garage on the proposed home faces the street while most homes tuck their garages around the side of the house. (The city’s historical commission, which only has advisory authority, denied the Jubies’ plan in September.)
Shelley Weyer, Rucker-Grand historic overlay zone representative, said the proposed house doesn’t fit. “This home does not reflect the historic character of the neighborhood,” Weyer said.
Building a controversy
Opponents argue that because the view corridor is in the historic zone, it should be part of Driscoll’s decision. Whether the city should have sold the strip of land is separate from the hearing on the house, Ramerman said last week.
When the city sold a public view corridor along the bluffs of Grand Avenue, nobody said anything about building a new house there. The Jubies planned on renovating the old house, but later found it was cheaper to build a completely new house, they said.
The Jubies had to get the city to give up a strip of public land to build a garage at the site. The garage would have replaced a carport that jutted out onto the strip of land in the original plans. Acquiring the land was critical to the Jubies buying the house, Harv Jubie told the City Council in November 2010.
The City Council approved selling the strip for $70,000 to the two landowners north and south of it in April 2011. That summer, the Jubies’ plan morphed into building a new house twice as large as the old one. The architectural drawings were ready by August.
Harv Jubie defended the change.
“We decided to tear the house down” after finding it would take numerous renovations and improvements. “It’s not historical,” Harv Jubie told the Tribune. The Jubies plan to move the existing house to a new location.
Weyer believes the Jubies are blowing smoke.
“It cost him over $1 million to remodel? Come on,” remodeling was never part of the plan, Weyer told the Tribune.
“Under the circumstances, there wasn’t any consideration to remodel,” Weyer said.
The Jubies’ home couldn’t assume its proposed footprint without the additional 10 feet of land sold by the city. The home’s size has to be proportional to the lot size.
“We’re not trying to come into the neighborhood and destroy it,” Harv Jubie said.
By MICHAEL WHITNEY
Published Jan. 11, 2012