Roger Kimball lives in one of the Fairfield County, Connecticut towns bordering Long Island Sound, and his neighborhood was hit by Sandy. He has to repair his home, and consequently ran into the nightmare regime of building codes and zoning regulation that prevails everywhere in developed portions of America.
Our first exposure to the town zoning authorities came a couple of weeks after Sandy. We’d met with insurance adjusters, contractors and “remediation experts.” We’d had about a foot of Long Island Sound sloshing around the ground floor of our house in Connecticut, and everyone had the same advice: Rip up the floors and subfloors, and tear out anything—wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, kitchen cabinets, bookcases—touched by salt water. All of it had to go, and pronto, too, lest mold set in.
Yet it wasn’t until the workmen we hired had ripped apart most of the first floor that the phrase “building permit” first wafted past us. Turns out we needed one. “What, to repair our own house we need a building permit?”
Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority. And Zoning—citing FEMA regulations—would force you to bring the house “up to code,” which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet. Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consuming—not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits.
Kafka would have liked the zoning folks. There also is a limit on how high in the sky your house can be. That calculation seems to be a state secret, but it can easily happen that raising your house violates the height requirement. Which means that you can’t raise the house that you must raise if you want to repair it. Got that?
One day, while I was still living on the SF peninsula in San Carlos, I went outside to get something from my car, and the pretty Oriental young lady who lived in the house across the street (whose name I did not even know, we had only been on waving-hello terms) ran crying into my arms.
She and her husband, a silver-haired, distinguée executive-type who drove an S-class Mercedes, had purchased the typical run-down 1960s-era California spec house across the street from our rental for something north of a cool million. They then proceeded to gut snd completely rebuild the place. Construction activity had been going for about two years, and seemed finally to be nearing completion. I thought these neighbors seemed likely to be about to take up residence just about the same time I was scheduled to depart.
My neighbor began sobbing out her story. A building inspector from the city of San Carlos had just left. He had disapproved of the nails used to attach the wire-mesh to the outside of the house which had already been covered with stucco cement and painted. Because the city didn’t like the contractor’s choice of nail, my neighbors were going to have to give up plans to move in. They would be obliged to tear off the entire new exterior surface of their house, and re-attach new wire mesh and stucco, and paint the whole thing all over again. It would take months to do the demolition and exterior covering again, and it would cost a lot of money.
Beyond the many tens of thousands of dollars all that extra construction was going to cost, they’d have to do an additional move (their lease was up) and pay thousands of unnecessary dollars a month for another rental house. My neighbors had been hit with six figures in extra expenses by the local building code enforcement system over a nail.
No wonder the poor girl was sobbing. She probably felt a lot like Richard III.
In all the suburban enclaves of the community of fashion, layers of officials have erected regulatory empires funded by the tax dollars of the generally oblivious ordinary citizen. No rational person would buy a home burdened with exorbitant levels of taxation which he can only actually use with the grudging permission of hostile and tyrannical officialdom, but one always discovers the character of one’s place of residence too late.
Really, the best choice is the complete reverse of what most people desire. Instead of living in the most toney neighborhood, surrounded by affluent neighbors with prestigious careers and elite educations, you want to live in a rural township: the kind of place lacking in prestige, fashionability, and good restaurants, where your neighbors are all rednecks and poor. That kind of township will have next to no government, taxes will be extremely low, your neighbors will be friendly, and you can hire labor at cheap rates.
My old TVR two-seater sits in front of our Newtown manse one Xmas season back in the 1980s
We commonly look backward in imagination trying to visualize dramatic events that occurred in our home neighborhoods in a distant past, long before our own lifetimes. It rarely occurs to us to imagine bad things happening in future times, after we are gone.
In my case, it seems to be the future that you have to worry about.
In 2008, a Mexican illegal immigrant, Luis Ramirez, died as the result of a beating at the hands of white teenagers. The altercation occurred on the same block where I grew up in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. I had personally ceased living there decades before, when I went away to college. My father also eventually moved away, to take up residence on a farm I acquired in Central PA, and we sold his house early in the 1990s.
The latest mass shooting occurred on Friday in Newtown, Connecticut. Karen and I moved to San Francisco from Newtown in 2001, but we had lived there for twenty years.
We moved to Newtown in July of 1982, from Redding Ridge, where we had been renting a small house located on a dirt road bordering several miles of uninhabited watershed property. I had a couple of pools of the Aspetuck River to call my own and fly fished for trout nearly every day during the season.
Redding Ridge was a very nice high-end suburb, but it was indubitably a suburb, and back then Newtown still seemed, by comparison, authentically the country. Newtown (the second largest town in land area in Connecticut) had plenty of open land, working farms, and included the headquarters of the local hunt.
Karen and I had been riding weekly at an equestrian center in Southbury, and one day near our home we helped recover a lost horse and made the acquaintance of several people from the Fairfield Hunt. Newtown was where aspiring equestrians wanted to be, we thought, and we concentrated our house searches there.
As soon as we started house shopping in Newtown, we came upon a white elephant property which seemed ideal for us. It was the sort of thing you refer to architecturally as “a remuddle.” The original house dated back to 1712, but had been enlarged in the 1820s, then later Victorianized. We owned a lot of books and needed and desired a lot of room, and this house had over 5000 sq. ft.
Newtown is what was referred to historically as a “hill town.” The original colonial settlers established themselves on hilltops because the local valleys were swampy and malarial. Newtown had been founded in 1710 as the product of what might be referred to as “agricultural sprawl.” The original settlement site in Stratford had been completely divided up, and the grandsons of the original settlers of Stratford Colony (founded 1639) needed more land for new houses and new farms, so new settlements were established in the remoter, inland quarters of the original colony, each built as a parish around a new Congregational meeting house.
Newtown was too far from Manhattan for convenient commuting but, by the early 20th century, the Connecticut hill towns were able to attract summer visitors from the city with cooler temperatures and New England quaintness.
Newtown never became a major historical site. Rochambeau’s French Army marched through town on its way from Rhode Island to Virginia during the Revolution. Charles Goodyear allegedly invented his process of vulcanizing rubber while resident in Newtown, and the game of Scrabble was later invented there.
Mr. & Mrs. Clarence Narramore, the last aboriginal descendants to own our house, added an additional pair of wings to the house in 1929 and (one week after the Crash) opened for business as a tourist hotel and family restaurant, serving chicken and steak dinners for $2. The inn and the original 16-acre home farm survived up into the early 1960s.
The old house had on the order of twenty-odd rooms (depending what you counted as a room) and in some portions definitely reeked of antiquity.
We lived there from 1982 to 2001.
When we took up residence in Newtown, Karen was working for an IT consultancy in Stamford, and I was commuting into the city on Monday and coming home on Friday. In the end, both of our businesses were sold. Lowell Weicker became governor and introduced the income tax, and the economy of Connecticut went to pot. The income tax cost Connecticut its competitive advantage in the Tri-State region, and (at least for a while) people stopped starting service companies in the readily-commutable lower coastal towns. By the late-1990s, both Karen and I were involved in new start-up companies and doing an exhausting hour and 45 minutes each way commute to Manhattan.
The fields and farms which attracted us to Newtown were all subdivided and covered with new subdivisions. The local roads were choked with commuter traffic, and our taxes which had been roughly $2000 a year in 1982, with a new sewer assessment, were now more like $10,000.
The fox hunt and the fields we had once ridden over were long gone.
The quaint colonial town aspect of Newtown had become, in our eyes, an ironic hollow shell.
The truth of the matter was that Newtown was a bedroom community. Its residents were typically an exhausted set of far-commuting executives, pushing the outer envelope of possible commuting distance. They got home at 7:30 or 8:00 (if lucky) on week nights, and staggered off to bed. Life consisted essentially of Saturday and Sunday morning and afternoon. The cynical boosters and looters making up the town’s political leadership set could do anything they pleased. Nobody else had the energy to go out to weekday town meetings. Taxes went up 10-12% per year, good times or bad, and development just kept on rolling. Newtown had no retired old people. The taxes were too high. If you retired, you sold your house to the next commuter and moved to some low tax Sun belt location.
ABC News spun the story depicting Newtown as “an adorable little town,” the sort of place where psychological disorder and violence seem unthinkable. In reality, I expect for many Newtown is the scene of a characteristically desperate American struggle to retain some of the characteristic amenities of rural and small town life while making a decent living.
Places like Newtown are often high-pressure environments in which people live in something somewhat resembling the country, but with all the same anonymity and anomie characteristic of the big city. Residents commonly rapidly come and go. Most of us barely knew our neighbors. And nobody really had the time to develop a community social life.
I expect places like Newtown are even less agreeable for children and teenagers. They can’t go anywhere without a car. There isn’t much of anything for them to do. And, the ethos of upper middle class competitiveness, materialism, and compulsory achievement broods over all. You obviously don’t hear about shooting massacres very often, but the usual vandalism expressing adolescent bitterness and resentment of adult authority can be seen everywhere.
As liberal politicians and the mainstream media try to use the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut to prove the need for more gun laws, World Net Daily notes that Connecticut already had gun control laws.
The state of Connecticut already has certain gun-control laws in place, at least three of which the shooter broke, as he could have only obtained the weapons through illegal means.
According to news reports, Adam Lanza, 20, shot his mother Nancy Lanza dead at their family home before driving to the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where he gunned down more than two dozen people, 20 of them children, and then killed himself.
The Associated Press reports Lanza brought three guns into the school: a Glock pistol, a Sig Sauer pistol and Bushmaster rifle, which the New York Post further reports was a semi-automatic “assault rifle” chambered for a .223 caliber round, matching casings found at the crime scene.
Lanza, therefore, if you count theft, murder and breaking and entering – since CBS New York now reports it likely Lanza broke into the school through a window to circumvent a locked-door and intercom security system – would have violated a half-dozen laws in his crime, including the following gun-control statutes:
First, Connecticut law requires a person be over 21 to possess a handgun. Lanza was 20.
Second, Connecticut requires a permit to carry a pistol on one’s person, a permit Lanza did not have.
Third, it is unlawful in Connecticut to possess a firearm on public or private elementary or secondary school property, a statute Lanza clearly ignored.
Fourth, with details on the Bushmaster rifle still sketchy, it’s possible Lanza may have violated a Connecticut law banning possession of “assault weapons.”
Of course, these laws were violated because Lanza did not own any of the firearms in question, but rather stole them, and he clearly had no regard for the law in committing his crime.
The Associated Press reports the weapons were registered to Lanza’s first victim, his own mother, according to a law enforcement official not authorized to discuss information with reporters and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Hurricane Sandy gave New Haven a little Halloween present.
The 16-acre New Haven Green was laid out in 1638 as the central square of a 9-square town layout. Reputedly, the size of the town green was intended to be sufficiently large as to accommodate all human beings saved at the time of the Day of Judgment, whose number was calculated by the Puritan divines on the basis of various theological considerations to amount to 144,000.
The New Haven Green served as a marketplace and militia parade ground and in the course of its history contained a watch house, a prison, a school, several churches, and a succession of statehouses during the period extending up to 1875 when New Haven shared the seat of government of the colony and later state with Hartford.
The Green also served as the colonial burying ground until 1821. Among those buried in the New Haven Green is the regicide John Dixwell. After the use of the Green as a cemetery was abandoned, the headstones were removed to Grove Street Cemetery, but the burials were undisturbed.
Winds from Hurricane Sandy knocked over an oak tree on Monday, October 29th, on the Upper Green. The following afternoon, a homeless woman recognized that a human skeleton was intertwined with the tree’s exposed roots. She called for the police, and detectives and the state medical examiner went to work, concluding that the remains were those of someone buried in the colonial era.
[H]air and fecal matter [from the exactly same cougar] had been collected more than a year earlier by biologists tracking the Connecticut-bound cougar across Wisconsin. First spotted in Champlin, Minn., in December 2009, biologists tracked him as he zig-zagged through Wisconsin, leaving behind a trail of paw prints, hair and poop.
Even in Wisconsin — with its bears and wolves — cougars are unexpected visitors, says mammalian ecologist Adrian Wydeven of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in Park Falls.
There have been only four confirmed cougars in that state since 2008, so when the traveling cougar appeared, Wydeven and his team kept a watchful eye on his movements. From December 2009 through late spring 2010 they haunted the cat’s trail, collecting samples and sending them to the lab. In December, a trail camera captured a cougar prowling through the evening snow near an area where hair had been sampled earlier, providing scientists with a glimpse of the cat.
Then, after another trailside portrait in May 2010, the cat disappeared.
The next time he appeared was more than a year later and a half-continent away, just a few miles from the Connecticut shore. Scientists don’t know much about the cat’s journey between Wisconsin and Connecticut, but wildlife biologist Clayton Nielsen of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale speculates the cat probably crossed Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, then wound his way down through New York. “There’s no real way of knowing,” he says. “But going south through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio — that’s very poor habitat, with a high likelihood that people would see the animal.”
Nielsen, who is studying cougars in the Midwest, says while roaming young males are increasing in the area, there are still no known breeding populations east of the Black Hills, except for an endangered group of less than 100 in and around the Florida Everglades. Scientists hypothesize that the Connecticut cat was wandering in search of food and a mate — but since he didn’t find a mate, he kept on moving. Female cougars don’t travel nearly as far as males, which limits the establishment of new breeding populations. But, Nielsen hypothesizes, if a few females made similar journeys, it’s plausible that a cougar population could re-establish itself farther east.
Thanks to the South Dakota cat and its incredible journey, residents of the Eastern United States can now experience the fear and thrill that come with living below the top of the food chain. America has grown a bit less tame.
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said today that results of genetic tests show that the mountain lion killed in Milford in June made its way to the state from the Black Hills region of South Dakota and is an animal whose movements were actually tracked and recorded as it made its way through Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Genetic tests also show that it is likely that the mountain lion killed when it was hit by a car June 11 on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford was the same one that had been seen earlier that month in Greenwich.
Mountain lion seen and filmed in Greenwich circa June 5.
Asking price: $28,000,000. Location: Old Saybrook, Connecticut—An old coastal town in Eastern Connecticut, not conveniently close to anything. Built: 1939. 15 rooms, 6 bedrooms (3 suites), 7.5 bathrooms, private dock, beach, and pond, on 2.87 acres. Estimated mortgage payment: $164,633/per month.
In the wake of the battle over a mosque at Ground Zero, a move by the Hartford City Council is sure to have its critics.
The Council announced Tuesday that it has invited local imams to perform Islamic invocations at the beginning of the Council meetings in September.
An e-mail from the Common Council called it “an act of solidarity with our Muslim brothers and sisters.”
The email even referenced the ongoing issue in New York. “One of the goals of the Council is to give a voice to the many diverse peoples of the City, which is especially important given the recent anti-Islam events throughout the country.”
One wonders when the city fathers of Hartford, Connecticut last felt any inclination to express their solidarity with Americans serving in combat in the Middle East, or even with non-haute bourgeois Americans residing outside coastal cities and suburbs.
Their touching concern for supposititious “Muslim brothers and sisters” (How does the Philippine Insurrection song go? “He may be the brother of Big Bill Taft, but he ain’t no brother of mine.”) has nothing to do with anything real. There is no fraternal (or sororal) connection between the greasy pols of Hartford and Imam Abdul Rauf in Manhattan or to some imaginary peaceful body of tolerant Muslims friendly and well-disposed toward non-believers in Hartford at all. The real relationship is between democrat party politicos and the form of ethical narcissism which expresses itself in gestures of political correctness.
Members of the community of fashion love to strike poses of moral superiority, and no experiences of that kind are quite so gratifying as those which simultaneously embrace the exotic other and at the same time elevate one above the unworthiness of one’s own defective culture, civilization, and fellow citizens.
The New York Times exposes CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s lies about serving in Vietnam. Another noisy state attorney general with a long record of expanding boundaries and innovative litigation winds up in disgrace.
I found it distasteful to vote for a liberal democrat in the Connecticut Senate Race of 1988, but William F. Buckley Jr. had proposed that conservative Republicans do precisely that in order to rid the US Senate and the Republican Party of that odious skunk Lowell Weicker, and Buckley’s reasoning made sense.
At the time, of course, we hoped we would go on to capture back that Senate seat six years later with a real Republican, but that never happened.
Who would have ever have imagined that voting for Joe Lieberman all those years ago would again result in joy?
It is very possible that Bill Buckley’s delivery of conservative support to Joe Lieberman in 1988 may now, 21 years later, save the country from the democrat party left’s attempt to nationalize 1/6th of the US economy. That good man Joe Lieberman has announced that he will support the GOP filibuster in the Senate blocking passage of the public option.
LMAO Watch the netroot’s heads explode.They betrayed Lieberman for Ned Who?, let’s not forget that. Now that failed Lefty power grab is coming back to bite them on the azz. There’s absolutely no reason for Lieberman to cave on this. They gave him the opportunity to show his strength as an Independent and he proved it. Choke on that, Libs.
Don Surber admires the fair-minded impartiality of the Bridgeport (Renamed: Connecticut) Post.
Not that after 30+ years in this business that I know anything about newspapers. I mean, after all, I do not think that the most important news story in the state of Connecticut would be the agitprop theater of federally financed lefties (ACORN takes grants) protesting executive salaries.
That involved 40 people including some from Washington. This is what they do for a living. They are professionals.
AP originally reported the reporters and news crews outnumbered the Paid Protesters 2-to-1.
The Conn Post gave this item two big pictures, a main story, and a side story.
Buried inside was a story of 300 people in Ridgefield staging a Tea Party against the entire $700 billion bailout and the subsequent $787 billion stimulus.
An actual grassroots movement was brushed off with “Tea Party’ protests spending to stimulate economy.”
The reporter assigned to the story, Eugene Driscoll, had an ironic line: “The difference here: many of the protesters were political conservatives who had never felt it necessary to take to the streets before.”
Over its century and a quarter of existence, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been generally recognized as one of the special pinnacles of the American canon, yet at the same time the book has retained a unique capacity to provoke the alarm and indignation of the godly by its failures in decorum.
Long ago, the problems were coarse language and unseemly racial fraternization. Today, it’s politically incorrect language, the dreaded N word, and a vital portrait of a racially unequal society and unequal characters which provokes the wrath of the Philistines.
Can such a corrupting and subversive book possibly be permitted to appear on reading lists in respectable American schools?
The Manchester, Connecticut school system bravely wrestled with the thorny problem, and devised a bold answer. Huck Finn could stay, but teachers must first attend special seminars instructing them in exactly how to frame and properly civilize the unruly text.
Personally, I think that Huck ought to jump back on the raft and sail off down the Connecticut River for the territories.
The Barrister lost a fence in a recent hurricane, and being foolish enough to ask permission to rebuild it, finds himself confronted with a Catch-22.
I go to down to our little Town Hall, just to stay on the right side of the law, to make a cautious inquiry. Town Hall sits in a nice old colonial house in the center of town, with a brick addition on the back. “It’s about a pool fence,” I tell the receptionist, who is doing nothing at all. “P&Z”, she replies. I go up the stairs to P&Z, and wait for 20 minutes while it is decided that it is OK with the all-wise and all-knowing government for someone to install central vacuuming in their house.
“It’s about a fence,” I finally am able to say. “Go the Building Dept.” I go to Building Dept., where there are two guys hanging around the desk. “It’s about a pool fence.” The guy is friendly and helpful. “Show me where on the map.” I show him the property, and he says “Got to go to Wetlands first.”
I am now running short on time. I go down the stairs and to the back to Wetlands. The nice young lady takes about 20 minutes to determine that the obvious fact that my property abuts a river. “You can’t build a new fence there – that’s a high-velocity flood zone.”
“But I am required to have a fence around the pool”, I insist, “because the town requires it”. And then I made a foolish error, mainly because I was impatient and had limited time. “The old fence was washed away when Katrina blew through here in the fall, so all I need to know is whether it is OK to replace it.”
“An unfenced pool? That is a zoning violation. I am obligated to inform the P&Z inspector.” I sputtered “But but but..I only need to replace it.” She replied “We will need it inspected first, but you are probably currently in violation, because we take pool safety seriously in this town. But construction in a wetlands flood zone will require a variance and a hearing which will take several months to schedule. You can begin by filling out these forms”, she said, handing me a packet about one inch thick. “Honestly, I might suggest to you that you get a local lawyer to represent you in this matter, because these issues become complicated, especially when you want something grandfathered.”
The Barrister, who evidently lives in a good-deal-more-authentic corner of Connecticut than the northern end of Fairfield County where I used to reside, describes the unwritten behavior code prevailing in such portions of New England as still exist.
Where I used to live, there were regular traffic sobriety check points, and the sight of a hunter emerging from the local state game land accompanied by bird dog would cause suburbanite matrons to react with horror.
If you buy an old place, you can fix it up but you cannot tear it down. It’s some other family’s homestead. Their history requires respect.
If you play golf, it’s assumed you are a weenie, socially-ambitious, or pretentious – so golf stuff hides in the trunk of the car. Same goes for tennis stuff. There are no golf courses or tennis courts in town. (Nor is there a health club, fast food, or any of that sort of stuff. If you want that, you drive. There is a Costco about 40 minutes away, and well-worth the trip.)
If you have cattle or horses, it’s in your favor. Sheep and chickens less so, but better than nothing. Hunting dogs are OK.
If you are caught gossiping, no one will speak to you again. You are done. So gossip quietly and safely.
If our constabulary knows you, you can DWI as long as you do not hurt anyone.