Zoning based on bad analysis
To the Editor:
I've sent the following to the Chilmark planning board.
The board defends 3,500 square feet as a reasonable house size maximum because it is 60 percent higher than the Chilmark average of 2,200 sq. ft. This might make sense if the 2,200 average is reasonable. However, it is not reasonable because 2,200 presumably includes all kinds of homes, home sizes, and home uses built over many decades, which may not be relevant now.
It makes more sense to look at the average size of homes sold and permits issued for new homes for a meaningful period such as 15 years – at least three bedrooms, two baths, on three acres or more. The average home size for the 135 Chilmark properties sold since 1998 is 3,100 sq. ft. The average is 3,300 sq. ft for the 122 house permits during the same period. The average for sales and permits is 3,200 sq. ft., which is only nine percent less than the proposed 3,500 sq. ft. limit. Presumably, no one would suggest a maximum just slightly over the average. Sixty percent over 3,200 is 5,200 sq. ft., which is a more sensible limit if the town decides to have one.
The house size debate arose because of a dispute between neighbors. A neighbor dispute should not trigger a town debate unless there is a town problem. Where is the problem? I asked this question to many people, including some supportive of the planning board proposal. No one could point to any large, unsightly houses visible from our main roads, and few if any from our ponds. Why target these homeowners when there is no problem, especially when this group is so supportive of local businesses, taxes, and charitable organizations. If it isn't broke, don't fix it.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this letter incorrectly included a reference to "this group of homebuilders." Home builders was incorrectly added in the editing process.