Modular housing has come a long way, and Nyack has seen several go up in the last couple of years. Today a house was put into place, as you might have noticed one of its five sections being trucked through our streets (hard to miss).
Helen Ingalls, the proud owner of the new house, watched over the process as the sections were trucked in an craned into place. It is a very satisfying sight, particularly since she went through hell to get the approvals.
It took a tremendous show of support by her neighbors and the threat of a lawsuit to finally bring the Architectural Review Board into line and approve the house. It was quite a fight. First, the ARB didn’t want to tear down the old house, which was falling apart, rat infested, and her builder said it was too far gone to try to restore. Then they wanted her to orient the house toward the corner, and among many other demands, they were going to hold up her building permit because there are no shutters on the house.
The issue isn’t about modular housing.A quick review: a modular house is like a manufactured house in that sections are trucked in and craned into place, but they are placed on a proper foundation and the structure must conform to all state building codes. It is easily confused with manufactured housing, which has also come a long way and is a good option for affordable housing, but is tarred with the memory of “trailer parks”. The history is interesting, beginning right after WWII and the Interstate highway was built, and the new trailers were hauled around the back of their cars as the family went camping. They gradually moved to a viable form of housing. Today, both manufactured and modular housing are very hard to distinguish from “stick built” structures. The recently built house on Main St., just above Gedney, is a great example of modular housing that most people can’t tell the difference.
The Architectural Review Board stepped WAY beyond its authority in reviewing this new construction, and holding up a building permit for shutters, which has no basis on local law in zoning or any design standards (which don’t exist). It is frankly arbitrary and capricious, and the Village would have lost the lawsuit as it had deprived Helen from her constitutional right to due process. The ARB must become much more humble in its role in reviewing projects and the Village needs to establish design guidelines so the Board can’t hold up people’s lives on their biggest life asset based on the board members’ personal preferences.Fortunately, Helen had the support of her neighborhood, as they came out to support her project against the will of the ARB. Believe me, that is a rare sight, since usually neighbors don’t want to see new construction. The Village needs to develop a balance between controlling bad design and acting as big brother.