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Xanadu, CT


The scaled-back plans for the Kogans' home.  

The landscaping and amenities surrounding the mansion were pitched somewhere between Versailles, a Sandals resort, and an absinthe dream of an MTV Cribs producer. There would be two swimming pools—one indoor, one outdoor—a separate hydrotherapy spa, a twelve-car garage, a pergola, a winter garden, and an intricately sculpted “parterre garden.” A carved-stone fountain would dance in the center of a “Renaissance-inspired” circular courtyard. The outdoor pool’s underwater lights would be controlled by remotes set up in multiple locations, and change hue with the turn of an “infinite spectrum color wheel for party functions.” The adjacent pool terrace would feature a pop-up in-floor misting system to cool the stone surface for bare feet on hot days. The plan even included a somewhat magical-sounding “octagon of perfect lawn; it is never off color, nor does it ever have weeds.” “Classical proportioned statuary” would explore a loosely sketched theme of Four Somethings: the architects’ working proposals were “four seasons, four elements, four senses,” and, finally, an option whose ESL phrasing whiffs of the Kogans’ own words: “four most interesting musicians, guitar gods.” Finally and most gloriously, a separate stone patio would be fashioned in the shape and colors of a Les Paul guitar. (One of the Kogans’ children is said to be a musician in New York, which would explain the thematic bent.)

Koganadu was the perfect product of the notion, typical of ultrahigh-end construction in the aughts, of a house as a kind of luxury self-sufficient Biodome—a notion that had made private theaters and personal wine cellars as ubiquitous as kitchens and closets. The plan’s creator, R. S. Granoff Architects, had allegedly accompanied the Kogans to Newport, Rhode Island, to look at some historic residences for inspiration; the couple took a special liking to the Breakers, the Gilded Age landmark built by Cornelius Vanderbilt II. Their new home would thus be a rock-and-roll update of the Breakers, minus the ocean and plus just about every gadget invented since 1895.

“It’s not a residence,” says one opponent. “It’s an industrial project. It’s a country club. It’s enormous.”

The objections from the neighborhood were immediate and furious. “It’s not a residence,” says T. H. Walworth III, president of a homeowners’ group called the Northeast Greenwich Association. “It’s an industrial project. It’s a country club. It’s enormous.” Granoff was “clearly gaming our building codes to construct a commercial-size building,” neighbors Richard and Jean Bergstresser wrote to town officials. Attorney Charles Lee, who lives directly across the street at 11 Simmons Lane, at 6,112 square feet the runt of the block, was alarmed most of all: “We’ve been trying to live a quiet life on a quiet road, and we get this monster dropped down on us.” Scale and aesthetics aside, the Kogans’ plan appeared to suggest that the place would be used for large gatherings. The rock-and-roll theme especially raised alarms. The design included a so-called lawn ramp stair that, to some, looked an awful lot like an outdoor amphitheater around a small stage. And there was one other red flag: The Kogans were going to connect the property’s primary septic system to the secondary one, a highly unusual move that would make the resulting system capacious enough to handle 480 people on the property at once. And, parties or not, the Kogans were clearly going to make use of that septic system: The plan called for 26 toilets.

On May 20, 2008, the project went up for discussion at a meeting of the Greenwich Planning and Zoning Commission. The hearing was standing room only. The Lees proved especially active: They had collected 175 signatures under a petition to quash the construction and came with many allies in tow. Leslie Lee, Charles’s wife, made protest stickers depicting the mansion’s façade enclosed inside a red Ghostbusters-style stop logo. On May 20, the five-member board rejected the plan by a vote of three to two.


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