Comments on life, the universe and everything from an aging Sixties survivor.

Location: Massachusetts, United States

Ummm, isn't "about me" part of the point of the blog?

Friday, February 24, 2012

I fought the law and the law won

T'other day I went over to join the other ghouls watching the demolition of an $800,000-plus house. And why was this done? Because the owner had knowingly and willfully ignored, ripped down and stomped on a significant percentage of local zoning laws. He kept up his resistance for 15 years, enriching an entire generation of property lawyers in the process. That this spectacle was fueled largely by hubris isn't just my opinion. The case has been up and down the entire Massachusetts judicial system--twice--in those 15 years, with a recent attempted detour into Town Meeting. The verdict was unanimous: the house was wrong, wrong, wrong, and its owner an arrogant prick. By the time I got there, the chimney was the highest item still standing.

I live in a very old New England town, and we don't agree on much. One of the first large property owners went back to England and became one of the Regicides--the panel that voted to execute King Charles I. That feistiness is in the local DNA. Zoning ordinances require a two-thirds vote to pass Meeting. When two-thirds of us agree on anything, it ought to be respected.

Mr Prick decided that sort of consensus did not apply to him. He ignored numerous warnings from abuttors and from lawyers that he was at the least pushing the envelope. He has whined for 15 years that the town didn't warn him. I'm not privy to what the town did or didn't tell him. I do remember my father sitting on our city's zoning board. I learned then that the burden of compliance rests not with the community, but with the property owner. One can push that envelope, but not break it. That's one reason to have an architect, and one does wonder what the architect here was thinking.

Mr Prick didn't just break the envelope, he shredded it in umpteen different ways. The abuttors did exactly what they said they would do and took him to court.

I had wondered now and then if the abuttors were being hypersensitive, but it occurred to me to get a look from the conservation land behind the demolition. Close to the lot? You betcha, close to at least one. It was close to the other as well, but the trees in the shot above mask how close. It's pretty much the same setback you can see here. No wonder they were pissed.

The whining goes on. Mr Prick's current theme is that the demolition was a "miscarriage of justice," quite as if someone had forced him to ignore his neighbours and the town bylaws at gunpoint. He says he may build a smaller house (read, the one he should have built in the first place) on the lot. How he could do that without being driven by spite all around would be comic. Seems like his smart move would be to sell out, perhaps to the abuttors, but smart hasn't been an obvious feature of this drama from the beginning.

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