Video: Neighborhoods suffer 'McMansion' attack

By Roger O’Neil Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/2/2006 8:08:07 PM ET 2006-02-03T01:08:07

Instead of "Welcome to the Neighborhood," homeowners see "Save Our Neighborhood" signs in the Atlanta suburb of Morningside.

Greg Willamson lost the sky, the sun and his backyard privacy when his little 1,400-square-foot bungalow got swamped by a 5,200-square-foot "McMansion."

"I'm not against rebuilding a home," he says. "I'm against dramatically changing the landscape of the neighborhoods which we have come to live in."

In five of Atlanta's old, once-peaceful neighborhoods, the mayor banned the massive homes until the city council deals with the McMansion stampede.

The neighbors insist it's not about taste, but size. 

"When you ride by these houses, they're the ones that you go, 'Oh, look at that!'" says Diane Olansky, the neighborhood representative on the council.

Which of course begs the question: How big is too big?

"Putting in a three-story home within zoning requirements in a ranch-style neighborhood won't work, but that three-story home in a two-story neighborhood might work,” says Dr. Cheryl Contant from the Georgia Tech College of Architecture.

The teardown-rebuild craze is countrywide. Fifty years ago, young couples couldn't get out of their parents' crackerjack houses fast enough. Now, their children's children are flying back to the cities. The trouble is, they're trying to squeeze their big lifestyles into little neighborhoods.

Chevy Chase, Md., is trying to corral monster homes with new height limits. In Dallas, the neighbors are making size and sensibility decisions.

As you'd expect, builders oppose new limits.

"There's a fine line between liberty and protection," says Ron McConnell, an Atlanta builder. "And the more protection you try to give people, the more liberties you take away from other people."

The bungalow-ers and McMansion-ers all agree on one thing.

"We chose to live here because of the neighborhood," says John O'Donnell.

So when he and his wife, Dana, move into their new place, it won't be a bungalow or a McMansion.

It will be their home.

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