08 Jun 2006

The Nightmare of Suburbia

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American pioneers, like Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, made a practice of moving whenever a neigbor settled close enough that they could see the smoke from his chimney. Those old boys were smart.

In today’s metropolitan suburbs, regulation has burgeoned like kudzu. One pays more in taxes per annum than most members of my dad’s generation paid for their house. Those taxes are high enough and increase reliably enough that retirement and a fixed income will require moving for most people.

You get to pay something in the neighborhood of a million bucks for a lot of suburban properties these days, and then you need to get (almost impossible to obtain) permissions to remodel or build anything on your (so-called) own property.

Myself, I’m keeping my 300 acre farm in a rural township of Pennsylvania, where I can shoot guns, remodel my house, or erect a 200 foot replica of the Statue of Liberty painted fuchsia, and nobody can stop me.

Just read this eye-opening account from the Washington Post of life in today’s suburban hell:

Marianne and Marc Duffy say their dream home renovation in Chevy Chase has turned into a suburban nightmare. Their neighbors say the Duffys intentionally flouted building rules when they expanded their $725,000 house on Thornapple Street and have no one to blame but themselves.

Yesterday, a Montgomery County appeals board reaffirmed an earlier ruling that the Duffys had rebuilt their house too close to the street and to neighbors. The Duffys say the decision leaves them two choices: Move the house a few feet at a cost of $100,000 or continue an expensive battle in court….

The dispute has shed new light on the inner workings of the county’s Department of Permitting Services, which reversed course at least five times in the case, the Duffys said. The agency issued renovation permits to the couple last year but later pulled them back and ordered work stopped after neighbors complained that the Duffys had actually demolished and rebuilt the house. The couple are renting a house nearby.

The case has pitted the Duffys, both securities lawyers, against a group of prominent opponents, including two journalists — Mayer, a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and her husband, William Hamilton, a Washington Post editor — as well as lawyer Michael Eig and his historic preservationist wife Emily Hotaling Eig, former ABC News reporter Jackie Judd and real estate agent Kristin Gerlach. Both sides had lawyers but recently decided to represent themselves.

Neither side has signaled a willingness to give up the fight, while acknowledging the strain the protracted battle, including six days of hearings, has put on their lives.

The dispute has roiled the neighborhood, sparked contentious discussions at Town Council meetings, generated letters to local newspapers and debates on talk radio, and fueled discussions about liberal conspiracies.

Moral? Don’t live near pretentious suburban liberals.

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johnopedia » Blog Archive » Feeling their pain

[…] Never Yet Melted has a link to a Wasington Post story on the labyrinth of the modern big city zoning code. […]


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