Is this house big enough to hold my ego?
By: Michael R. Shannon
Michael R. Shannon
Even a property–rights conservative must admit it’s always an ominous sign when a prospective neighbor decides to give his soon–to–be–constructed house a name. There’s nothing that screams “Arriviste!” like a billboard in the front yard trumpeting the fact that your new home is so large it merits a title and will be petitioning for a Zip Code.
So it came as something of a shock to unsuspecting neighbors in the Hidden Springs community of Great Falls when Mrs. Young Yi installed a sign announcing construction of “Le Chateau De Lumiere,” when their own homes had been anonymous lo these many years.
I must confess we’ve privately called our modest shelter the “Fisher–Price House” because the siding was once bright yellow with equally arresting blue shutters. But we didn’t hang banners off the eaves announcing the fact or stock the front yard with random infants.
I believe the title of Mrs. Yi’s abode means “mansion of light” much like a bullfighter’s garish getup is called the “suit of lights.” But what the name lacks in modesty is more than compensated for by its addition of “diversity” to the blandly wealthy neighborhood.
According to the Washington Post, the 25,425 sq. foot behemoth is modeled on Louis XIV’s Palace of Versailles. This asteroid, is ten times larger than the average square footage of a house built these days for lesser mortals. And it’s almost twice the size of the Virginia governor’s mansion, which comes in at a paltry 14,000 sq. ft.
Mrs. Yi’s plans call for European landscaping and, much like an airport runway, the manse will also boast a lavish underground lighting system, hence the “Lumiere.” She will also enjoy a pool, pool house, wine cellar, exercise room, billiard room, sauna, card room, rec room, gallery and a theater with a “concession space,” which may be how she plans to offset the mortgage payment. No word as yet on valet parking.
There’s something about Versailles that’s a magnet for pretension. Back in 2000 Michael Saylor, who was briefly a dot.com billionaire, unsuccessfully planned to build a mega–edifice in Great Falls also modeled on Versailles. His was to have a football field, although if he was really serious about the Versailles connection it should have been a soccer pitch.
Continuing to mix architectural metaphors Saylor declared, “I want it to be like the White House.” Saylorville was projected to cost as much as $50 million and he described it as, “part house, part embassy, part ceremonial” and all hey–look–at–me!
It’s somewhat ironic the house causing restless nights for the neighbors is being built by the owner of 1st Class Sleep Diagnostics Center, a chain with six locations in Virginia that treats apnea, snoring, insomnia and obsessing about construction plans.
The NIMBYs, I mean neighbors, are using time–worn objections that have been employed to prevent construction of everything from bike paths to nuclear reactors: It’s an eyesore, it’s too big, trees will die, it interferes with my view, it will lower property values(!) and it makes my house look small.
It’s difficult to muster much sympathy for either side. On one hand you have the $25 million Case de Ostentation where a functioning GPS is required to find the bathroom and on the other you have people who, in the priceless words of reporter Justin Jouvenal, “deliver their own trash to dumpsters at a local school, rather than have a noisy trash truck rumble down the main road.”
More likely Mr. and Mrs. Fastidious order their undocumented landscape interns to dump the trash, which in addition to eliminating rumbly trash trucks also eliminates the need to pay for garbage disposal since taxpayers pick up the tab.
The wealthy are always appalled when reality refuses to accommodate their whims. Social disapproval does not appear to be working, so lawyers have been hired. The lawsuit leans heavily on deed covenants that were put in place to keep the lots large and woody. Unfortunately, for neighbors seeking to occupy the moral high ground (while leaving the trees undisturbed), deed covenants or restrictions have been used in the past to keep Jews from buying property and blacks from moving into a neighborhood.
The suit also contains vague charges regarding the loss of the “sylvan character” of the neighborhood and the megalith’s failure to demonstrate “conservative” aesthetics.
But mostly the controversy again proves the enduring truth of Dennis Miller’s observation that “a developer is someone who wants to build a house in the woods, while an environmentalist is someone who already has a house in the woods.”
Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.