Laura Snyder Smith

Should a town regulate the appearance of new houses, as well as their sturdiness and safety? Many towns do have architectural standards for new construction. And the shore town of Kennebunk, Maine, is considering joining their number, after residents complained about the latest addition to the town's Beach Avenue.

The Portsmouth Herald has this report (see: "Unique beachfront home brings design standards to table," by Jennifer Feals). Reports the paper: "In a letter to the Planning Board, which led to a board discussion on Tuesday, April 14, Kennebunk resident Leanne Travers called the house being built on Middle Beach, a "monstrosity." The three-story, flat-roofed, box-like structure is the first of its kind to be built on Beach Avenue, she said, though there are other modern designed homes surrounding the beach."

Planning Board member Robert Metcalf said, "This is an unusual piece of architecture." Member Matthew Randall commented, "It's in a point of the town where it's an economic driver, that's where all the tourists go, that's where you don't want something to stand out and be different." Member David Smith remarked, "It really looks like it belongs in, say, Malibu, Calif. instead of the historic New England Seacoast community."

Any rule enacted now, of course, won't be applicable to the already-built structure. Nevertheless, the planning board seemed to be ready to consider new regulation. "Looking at potential design standards, board members said it could be difficult to enact and enforce restrictions in one part of the town, but discussed a more wide-spread approach," the paper reported.