Fires along a “Quinn’s Crossing,” a “Street of Dreams” community of McMansions in rural Snohomish County north of Seattle, destroyed three new homes and damaged a fourth on Monday night. Damage is estimated at $7 million. The homes in Quinn’s Crossing cost around $2 million each and were between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet. Builders described them as “green” construction because of of features like formaldehyde-free materials, energy-efficient appliances, cork and used-wood floors and landscaping that included native plants. The ELF (Earth Liberation Front), some member of whom claims responsibility for torching the homes, and neighbors disagree. How can a 5,000-square foot home be “green”? For starters. Then there is the fact that this was a “Rural Cluster Development,” a kind of developing which is increasingly popular in which often huge, expensive homes are built in a “cluster.” Developers say RCD’s are “green” because they preserve open space. Opponents — like the neighbors who formed groups, sued the Quinn’s Creek Developers, and essentially lost — say these developments bring the worst of the city into rural areas. Had developers not built in “clusters,” they would have been restricted by zoning regulations to building 24 homes with each home on about five acres. “Cluster” developments allow them to build up to 48 homes on one-half acre each, in exchange for leaving 114 acres undeveloped. Bringing this many homes into rural areas means many more people, many more septic systems which threaten streams, aquifers and wells which supply drinking water, and many more vehicles and drivers taxing and overloading country roads. Homes like this in rural areas are nothing like other homes nearby and mean, invariably, gentrification, the end of small farm communities as the people who live in them have created them and known them for decades and generations. Rich people who buy these McMansions usually have little to no tolerance for rural values of thrift, sustainability, simplicity, or for the fierce independence and self-reliance of farm and rural people, an independence which usually steadfastly resists programs McMansion-dwellers find attractive, most of which amount to efforts to ensure that the surrounding community is what they want to look at when they do their morning runs with their dogs or whatever.
Developers’ claims to “green” credibility are impossible to test or validate. There are no real standards which identify a development as “green.” Any developer can call his latest project “green” by selecting from a laundry list of “green” features” to include (and charging up to five percent more for the home than he would have been able to otherwise). These “green” dwellings — which include such things as waterfalls inside the home (!) and “outdoor living space” (!) — are a joke and a disaster to rural people who have lived green, often out of necessity, all of their lives. “Green” is not paved roads, cul de sacs, waterfalls in the house, gates, electronic surveillance devices, and all of that. Green is gravel roads, caring for and preserving aquifers and streams, enjoying real waterfalls in the outdoors, viewing all of your property as “outdoor living space,” and having dog friends around to alert you to the presence of strangers. And what on earth is “green” about importing and planting “native plants” in the landscape?! Green is enjoying the native plants growing on the property all by themselves and not bulldozing them or ripping them out to build your multi-million dollar estates, then buying and planting “native plants”! This is no “Street of Dreams,” from the standpoint of the earth, animals, creatures, trees, wildlife, and people living in rural communities, this is a nightmare!
Spray-painted sheet left at the site reads, “Built Green? Nope, BLACK. McMansions + RCDs r NOT GREEN. ELF”
Well, I’m nonviolent and always have been and always will be. No arms, guns, knives, bombs, incendiary devices, matches or “accelerants” for me. But I have to say, I cannot stand what I see rich people and greedy developers doing to the rural areas I and my parents and grandparents and family members have lived in, known, loved and cared for for all of my 55 years. Torching the Street of Dreams was horrible and wrong, but I can’t say I have no insight into the sensibilities of those who torched it.