Proposed rebuild of Gorham’s Pond home sparks debate
DARIEN — Dougal and Rebecca Munro woke up in their Rings End Road home to smoke the day after Christmas, 2014.
The fire destroyed much of their house, but the Munros escaped unscathed, thanks to the Darien Fire Department. Still, the Munros say the home is uninhabitable and they hope to change that.
“We don’t live there, the house is empty,” Rebecca said recently, after a packed Thursday public hearing of the Zoning Board of Appeals at which the Munro’s proposal to tear down the burned home and rebuild larger was debated. “We’re in the process of trying to figure out what can go there and make it pretty to get out of the rental — we haven’t lived there in three years.”
The plan would see the existing 2,300 square foot home on Gorham’s Pond torn down and replaced by a 3,500 square foot design. The proposed home would be taller than the last — in part to meet Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) guidelines — and would require variances in setbacks from the water and the road.
The proposed rebuild was met with support by some and outrage by others, and pitted friends and neighbors against one another.
Lucia Zachowski, president of the Friends of Gorham’s Pond, noted that Rebecca is a board member of the group and that she and Munro are friendly.
“This breaks my heart to have to speak about this in this regard. But I treasure this area and I feel that not only as a private individual but also as the president of the friends of Gorham's Pond it is my duty as it is in our bylaws.... To try to protect them and preserve them,” said Zachowski, who said she worried about the impact a near “four-story” home would have on the landscape. The proposed house would be 29.44 feet tall and the Munros are not seeking a variance for height.
Some worried that the home, at the site of an old mill, was historic, though the Munro’s lawyer, Wilder Gleason, said the home was built in Westport originally and moved to its current location in Darien during the 1920s.
Others worried that the new proposal would stick out in the neighborhood where there are many historic homes.
“I’m afraid that the large box shape that has been proposed reflects just the commercial needs and it doesn't fit in with a lot of the residential houses around it,” said Marian Castell, Darien’s town historian.
“I think there’s a danger that this box shape will dominate and not harmonize with the whole area of Gorham’s pond all around it,” Castell added.
But not all were opposed to the design.
“They’re not trying to do anything above and beyond, they’re really just trying to practically rebuild their home, where they live,” said Julie Bower, a local real estate agent and friend of the Munros.
According to Munro, the larger scale of the proposed home has more to do with safety and bringing it up to modern standards.
”We want to go back,” Munro said. “This isn’t a choice. It’s a house that can’t be lived in.”
The Zoning Board of Appeals continued the hearing to May 16.
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