Many perfectly useful and pleasant houses are torn down every year in the inner suburbs by developers who build McMansions in their place.
These developers are often regarded as party-crashers in the neighborhood, so they should have the good grace to follow a code of etiquette for what they do. They are, after all, doing nothing socially useful, not even increasing the housing stock of the nation.
Here is a suggested eight-point code for developers building in established neighborhoods:
1) Be aware of your intrusion into the neighborhood and be as thoughtful as you can be.
2) Keep the trees.
To the extent possible, design the new house to prevent the destruction of the large trees that have been part of the neighborhood for years.
If you must cut down a tree, saw it into fireplace-size lengths and leave it on the curb; preferably call the neighbors and tell them that you are sorry about the tree, but you hope that the firewood is useful.
3) Avoid needless noise.
Some noise is inevitable, but a thoughtful developer can minimize it. For example, the construction that has been continuing off and on for 21/2 years across the street from me in North Arlington often treats me to loud radio music and long outdoor cell phone conversations -- chats that easily could be conducted inside the partially constructed house.
4) Concentrate the necessary noise.
If you are going to pour a cement driveway and put on roofing -- inevitable and noisy chores -- schedule them at the same time.
5) Never on Sunday.
Regardless of your religious feelings, give the neighbors a day of silence every week; Sunday is a good day for that.
6) Follow the rules.
Construction codes should be followed. Construction noise in Arlington, for example, is not supposed to happen before 7 a.m.
Cars and trucks should be parked carefully and pointed in the correct direction.
7) Be neat.
While some mess is inevitable, it can be managed and contained. Try to avoid inflicting runoff on neighbors, and keep the not-yet-used construction material in order. Make sure that workers do not litter the neighborhood with cigarette butts, soda bottles and discarded fast-food packaging.
8) Be swift.
Do not start a project without the resources in hand to complete it quickly; an aggravating six-month project is much better than an aggravating two-year project.
As readers may have guessed, the developer in my neighborhood carefully has avoided following any of these suggestions.
-- David S. North
is a former chairman of the
Arlington County Board of Equalization of Real Estate Assessments.