Who are the Concerned Watertown Homeowners’ Association (CWHA)?
We are a Group of over 350 Watertown residents and/or property owners concerned with losing substantial property rights if the Town adopts the new, additional residential design guidelines and plan review that it is currently proposing.
How will Residential Design Control affect me, the homeowner?
If adopted, your neighbor(s) and/or the Town PLANNING DEPARTMENT, could determine that your renovation or construction plans “do not fit” in within the existing aesthetics of your neighborhood and decide that you must change your plans or discard them entirely.
Will Residential Guidelines Cost More Money?
According to David Gamble, Principal of the architecture firm the Town has hired to assist it in creating this new level of plan review, the proposed residential guidelines will cost Watertown homeowners more money. He stated that the increase in property value would make up for the higher cost. The CWHA believes that any increase in building cost should be the homeowner’s choice, not mandated by the Town. We are concerned what this means for the homeowner who cannot afford a more expensive design, thereby resulting in more expensive construction or design costs.
Why does the Concerned Watertown Homeowner’s Association believe that we already have enough rules and regulations in place?
The Town of Watertown already has over 120 pages of a Zoning Ordinance which is managed and enforced by the Building Department, Zoning Department and Department of Public Works.
Concerned Watertown Homeowners’ Association supports good design, but “good” is subjective and will vary among individuals.
No government or neighborhood group should be able to dictate architectural style, design, or building material of any property that is in compliance with current zoning rules or regulations.
HOW IS DESIGN SUBJECTIVE?
Here’s an example: Recently, a special permit was granted by the Town of Watertown which included meetings and approvals from both the Planning and Zoning boards. A permit was granted with the contingency that the front dormers on the house be made smaller. However, when David Gamble, the hired architect consultant for the Planning Department, saw the actual building, he commented that it would have looked better if the dormers were taller and larger. This is a great example of the subjective nature of design. Originally, the owner’s plans were drawn with larger dormers. This is not about “who is right”? It is an example of how opinions can differ (by the Town) on the same design.
Is the Concerned Watertown Homeowners’ Association (CWHA) “Jumping the Gun?”
Some may say that the CWHA is jumping the gun by informing the public of our opposition to the proposed new design review process since the Town is still in the research phase and nothing has been finalized yet. We respectfully and strongly disagree. If the CWHA waits until there is a formal proposal, we will have lost our opportunity to CONTRIBUTE to the process before it becomes official. It is our understanding that proponents for design review have been meeting for over two (2) years, without sufficient notice to residents and property owners.
What can YOU do to protect this potential infringement of your PROPERTY rights?
Become better informed and make your voice heard. Call your Town Councilor and tell him/her that you do not want to lose your property rights. Check back for updates on this ongoing issue. Your voice should be heard! Given the process and procedures currently in place, it is fair to say that more regulations are unnecessary and unduly burdensome.
What would the process possibly look like to add a dormer or porch to my house or to extend my driveway?
We do not know specifically what the Town is proposing to implement, but we do know that the process and guidelines currently in place are more than sufficient to comply with the Building and Zoning laws.
Will the Plumbing, Electrical and Building Inspectors need more help to enforce the proposed design guidelines and our current 123-page local Zoning Ordinance? Who will pay for the help necessary?
Yes, it is reasonable to assume that the Planning Staff will need to hire more employees to review your plans for compliance with Residential Design Review? The WCHA believes that the permit process is currently challenging enough, and no one benefits with more review and/or subjective determinations.
Were homeowners notified directly, by mail or otherwise, that the Residential Guidelines were being discussed?
No, the Town purportedly complied with its notice obligation by way of a small classified ad in the local newspaper. The WCHA, however, believes that EVERY PROPERTY OWNER is entitled to direct notification from the Town when important property rights and/or property values could be impacted by any new, proposed design plan review. It behooves the Town to be transparent in these important discussions and decisions.
What could be controlled?
The Town website refers to the following in the Residential Design Standards’ proposal:
- siding your house;
- addition(s) on your property;
- placement of a garage or driveway;
- architectural styles;
- roofing plans;
- the façade of your house;
- porches and entries;
- siding and material;
- detailing and fenestration;
- planting and landscaping.
The CWHA believes strongly that no 3rd party should decide for you, the homeowner, on any of the above alterations. As a property owner, it is your sole and exclusive right to make decisions about the appearance of your property and its functional use and layout.
The CWHA believes that no 3rd party should dictate or subjectively alter one’s designs or plans to renovate one’s home! More “red-tape” and guidelines are unnecessary.