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New Rules For 'Megahomes' Coming in Bellevue

Amy Radil
12/03/2007

Tonight (MON) the Bellevue city council is expected to approve several restrictions on building so–called "megahomes" in older neighborhoods. City officials say complaints from residents about the large new homes reached a crescendo in the last two years. KUOW's Amy Radil reports.

BELLEVUE CITY OFFICIALS SAY THE MEGAHOME TREND HAS BEEN CONCENTRATED IN THE WESTERN PARTS OF THE CITY, WHERE OLDER, SMALLER HOMES HAD LARGE LOTS. IN RECENT YEARS DEVELOPERS BEGAN TEARING DOWN THOSE HOMES AND REPLACING THEM WITH HOUSES THAT THAT WERE AN AVERAGE OF 163% LARGER, OR 4200 SQUARE FEET IN SIZE. IN ALMOST ALL OF THOSE PROJECTS, BUILDERS REMOVED A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TREES AND VEGETATION.

BELLEVUE'S NEIGHBORHOOD OUTREACH MANAGER IS CHERYL KUHN. SHE SHOWS PHOTOS OF THE EXISTING HOMES CONTRASTED WITH THEIR NEW NEIGHBORS.

KUHN: "This is a family home, built of wood, it's a couple of stories, it's on a very large lot that looks like it has some pasture land, it's very heavily wooded, it has a lot of greenscape."

NEXT DOOR IS SOMETHING RESEMBLING A YELLOW MEDITERRANEAN VILLA WITH A 3–CAR GARAGE AND LARGE PAVED CIRCULAR DRIVEWAY. KUHN SAYS CITY LEADERS ARE RELUCTANT TO WADE INTO QUESTIONS OF ARCHITECTURAL TASTE. INSTEAD, THEY'RE EXPECTED TO IMPOSE REQUIREMENTS THAT 30% OF THE TREES BE SPARED WHEN NEW HOMES ARE BUILT. AND THEY'LL SPECIFY THAT FOR NEW HOMES AND ADDITIONS 50% OF THE FRONT YARD MUST BE GREEN, NOT CONCRETE.

THE COUNCIL WILL ALSO ADDRESS HOMES THAT ARE RAISED UP TO TOWER OVER THEIR NEIGHBORS.

KUHN: "This I think is one of the best shots we have to show lot buildup."

IN THIS PHOTO, THE GROUND UNDER THE NEW HOUSE HAS BEEN RAISED UP SO MUCH THAT ITS LIVING ROOM WINDOWS STARE INTO THE UPSTAIRS WINDOWS OF THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR. THE OLDER HOUSE IS ALSO COMPLETELY IN THE SHADOW OF THE NEW ONE. KUHN SAYS THE CITY COUNCIL WILL SPECIFY THAT THE HEIGHT LIMIT STARTS FROM THE ORIGINAL LEVEL OF THE LOT.

KUHN: "And once again we're not changing the height limit. So people will still be able to build large houses that are 30 feet tall to the midpoint of a pitched roof. They just won't be able to build the mountains underneath them."

A SPOKESMAN FOR THE MASTER BUILDERS ASSOCIATION SAYS THESE CHANGES DON'T RAISE ANY SPECIAL CONCERNS FOR BUILDERS. BUT HE SAYS HIS GROUP WILL BE PAYING ATTENTION WHEN BELLEVUE DEVELOPS A SECOND PHASE OF RULES NEXT YEAR. SOME OF THOSE RULES COULD APPLY TO ENTIRE SUBDIVISIONS, RATHER THAN JUST NEW HOMES IN EXISTING NEIGHBORHOODS.

SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL MEMBER RICHARD CONLIN IS LEADING SEATTLE EFFORTS TO LIMIT MEGAHOMES. HIS PROPOSALS HAVE BEEN UNDER REVIEW WITH THE CITY, AND HE PLANS TO PUT THEM ON THE CITY COUNCIL AGENDA IN FEBRUARY.

AMY RADIL, KUOW NEWS.

℗ Copyright 2007, KUOW News

01.16.18

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