Stef Mendell Launches Campaign Against McMansions & Teardowns from $1 Million McMansion Teardown

By Brent Woodcox

Raleigh City Councilor Stef Mendell announced her bid for re-election this week. As part of her announcement she touts her record of “listening, being open-minded and demonstrating a willingness to compromise.” But it appears one thing she is willing to compromise is what she says she believes in.

An issue Stef Mendell has made a central plank of her platform is her opposition to teardowns. She even went so far as to back a proposal to block the construction of new housing in a neighborhood full of million dollar mansions in North Hills by saying that she was only voting in opposition to teardowns. Mendell’s excuse for demanding 20,000 square foot minimum lot sizes in this quickly densifying area of town was that splitting the lot to build cheaper houses would result in teardowns and older housing being replaced by McMansions.

So imagine my surprise when I found out that Stef Mendell plans to launch her re-election campaign from…

A million dollar McMansion that was constructed after a teardown.

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This 4,650 foot McMansion monstrosity on Lewis Farm Road was just a relatively affordable $325,000 single family home as recently as 2011. Then in the midst of the Great Recession the property was scooped up, renovated and replaced in 2013 before being sold in 2015 for more than $1 million. Not bad bang for your buck if you’re not short on capital.

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As I wrote at the time of the controversy over stopping new homes from being built in Midtown by putting in place the North Hills Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District, none of this is surprising given that minimum lot sizes in too many of our neighborhoods force builders and buyers into building nothing but high-end, luxury homes for the land costs to make sense.

It’s no secret that larger lot sizes incentivize larger homes being built on them, particularly in popular areas like North Hills where land values are quickly rising. The only way it makes sense economically to spend so much on a large tract of land is if you plan to use that space to build a 3,000 to 5,000 square foot home that will likely cost between $500,000 and $1 million. Of course, though there is an abundance of supply of that type of housing proliferating throughout the city, many middle income to lower income residents still find that price point far out of reach for their families.

And, of course, the effects of the city’s land use policy have lead to the exact outcomes I predicted.

Now Stef Mendell can even take a self-guided tour through her wrongheaded approach on housing all while her wealthy friends shower her with campaign cash on the site of a $1 million McMansion teardown.

You do have to give her credit for learning a thing or two from fellow councilor Russ Stephenson during her first 2 years on council. Whether it’s on Airbnb or granny flats or McMansion teardowns, there’s one rule for the politicians and another rule for the rest of us.

Brent Woodcox