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Back Bay resident fends off toilet-peeping dormers on neighboring building

The Boston Sun reports the Back Bay Architectural Commission rejected dormers proposed for 197 Commonwealth Ave. after a neighbor complained their location would let people stare at her as she sat on her toilet.

The commission, which has a say in all building exterior work in the Back Bay historic district, however, did approve a company's plan for wireless-Internet antennas on 19 light poles in the neighborhood, after determining it did not have standards for historic wireless antennas in the neighborhood.

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Comments

Ahhh, the privilege of living so high up in the air that there (typically) no need to put some curtains in your bathroom.

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Sometimes with our iPhones and gourmet salads we forget what it must be like to be so poor as to not be able to afford plastic blinds.

It sounds like the rejection is because the developer tried to pull a fast one by excluding neighboring units from their rendering. For that reason (and not the stupid toilet one) the rejection is justified.

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so poor as to not be able to afford plastic blinds

This cannot be serious.

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That's the joke

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I read that in a McBain voice and laughed even harder :-)

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These kinds of things are accommodated in zoning decisions all the time. There are many dense neighborhoods in all sorts of regions that have very strict size regulations to prevent these kinds of things when expanding housing.

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because shades are out of this persons financial reach

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What's embarrassing is an official 'commission' accepting that as a valid argument. (although a finger wag to the owner/developer for not going across the alley and talking about the plans before the meeting).

We had similar at a NA meeting, where a resident wanted to add a deck, and a complainer opposed the idea because people could go on the neck and potentially look into her windows. She did not understand the irony that complainer had a deck herself and could technically look into the windows of this petitioner already.

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There are all sorts of regulations that prevent development that has perceived negative affects on the neighbors.

While it places restrictions, it also prevents neighbors from making additions that are detrimental to people on nearby properties.

The alternative is to have much less zoning and have far more people unhappy with what gets built. Not every complaint is reasonable, but having zoning boards take a look at these things is often seen as something beneficial.

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While [zoning] places restrictions, it also prevents neighbors from making additions that are detrimental to people on nearby properties.

That's how it ends up working in practice but it's a terrible way to regulate land use.

Suppose you have two identical parcels A and B. The owner of Parcel A puts up a 20-story condo tower on Parcel A. If the owner of Parcel B wants to put up a 20-story condo tower, the Parcel A condo owners are going to complain that it blocks their view. That really shouldn't be a zoning issue: if the Parcel A condo owners want an unobstructed view, they should buy Parcel B or buy a light-and-air easement from Parcel B.

How does that become a zoning issue, then? The reason is that the zoning code is written such that everything in the city is nonconforming, and therefore to build almost anything at all you need to get a variance from the zoning code. That means all the NIMBYs get to weigh in on every new building, and the zoning code itself is basically irrelevant. In the example above, it means that Parcel A condo owners get to lobby local politicians to keep the owner of Parcel B from developing that property, instead of paying the owner of Parcel B for light-and-air rights.

I don't have a solution but it is an ugly state of affairs.

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Hit the nail on the head. The standard "I have but I don't want you to have" Boston mentality we see so often.

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Get over it. If you want neighbors to not be able to see into your windows without having to put up curtains, move to a multi-acre lot in New Hampshire or western Mass. where there are plenty of trees to block the view.

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As a rural dweller, I demand to have those trees cut down so squirrels and owls cannot watch me on the toitey.

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there are plenty of trees to block your view. But once it's dark out and you turn on your lights, there's pretty good sightlines for someone with a pair of binoculars, a telescope, or a drone.

Curtains are a helpful invention.

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Would you also tell those other Back Bay neighbors of the Back Bay condo owner who wants to cut down a 100 year old beautiful tree because it's a 'complete hassle' for him to have to walk around it to get into his BMW to 'get over it?' Zoning laws in historical neighborhoods exist for a reason. We all have to abide by them or try to get a variance, and neighbors have every right to voice their opinions. Do your research BEFORE you move into a neighborhood with strict rules. It's not brain surgery. For what it's worth, why would anyone spend several thousand dollars to have a window installed that looks into a neighbor's bathroom? Bizarre!

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