Category Archives: Zoning and Land-Use

Frustrated Property Owner Sends A Giant “Screw You” To All Of Alexandria, Virginia

Anyone who has dealt with the pettiness that often finds itself residing in zoning boards is likely to understand this one completely:

To many in Old Town Alexandria, the sex shop that opened recently on King Street is nothing short of scandalous, a historical desecration just blocks from the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee.

But to Michael Zarlenga, it’s justice.

Zarlenga spent $350,000 on plans to expand his hunting and fishing store, the Trophy Room. He worked with city officials for almost two years and thought he had their support — until the architectural review board told him he couldn’t alter the historic property.

Furious and out of money, Zarlenga rented the space to its newest occupant, Le Tache, which is French for “the spot.”

“I can’t say I didn’t know it would ruffle feathers,” said Zarlenga, 41. “Actually, I was hoping for a fast-food chain because I thought that would be more annoying to the city.”

As you can imagine, this has ruffled the feathers of quite a few people in Alexandria and has even sent the local prosecutor on a pornography hunt in an effort to find some way to shut the business down.

Considering the way they treated Zarlenga, though, it’s pretty clear that the City of Alexandria has nobody to blame but itself:

Zarlenga’s saga with the building dates to 2001, when he opened his hunting and fishing store. In 2006, he bought the building with the idea of renovating and expanding it to include more retail space, a bathroom and an elevator.

He hired a Washington architectural firm, which created eight designs for the project. The final one included plans to raise the roof on the back of the building and demolish a small section of a historic brick wall that was built about 1800. Most of the back wall would have been incorporated into the renovation.

Zarlenga said he consulted Alexandria’s historical preservation staff along the way to be sure everyone was on board with his plans. He said he relied heavily on the advice of Peter Smith, who at the time was the principal staff member of the city’s Board of Architectural Review.


Zarlenga said he felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under him. He appealed to the City Council but lost in September 2007. Council members suggested he go back to the staff of the architectural review board and submit new plans.

For Zarlenga, it was the final straw. He choked back tears as he told the council he was finished: “I have no faith in the staff. . . . They have completely taken the integrity, as I see it, out of the system. . . . The simple fact is there’s no money left, okay?”

And so, he rented the space out to a business sure to ruffle feathers and piss people off, and he’s not done yet:

[T]here’s another piece of Zarlenga real estate that might start causing buzz. He owns a shuttered, dilapidated building several blocks away at Princess and Royal streets. Some of the broken windows have been patched with duct tape.

“As far as I’m concerned, that corner will always be an eyesore,” Zarlenga said. “That’s a little slice of revenge.”

As far as I see it, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Susette Kelo Tells Her Story at The Cato Institute

Interestingly, this new development that was supposed to bring in so much revenue and jobs to the City of New London remains an empty lot. The city has lost a tax base and the only new jobs which were created were for demolition. Here’s hoping that New London does not recover from this immoral stealing of property anytime soon.

To watch or listen to the rest of the event featuring Susette Kelo’s attorney from the now infamous case Scott Bullock and the author of the book Little Pink House Jeff Benedict, click here.

In fact, let me say unequivocally, I’m OK with more people dying, so long as we have more freedom; be it with drugs, or guns, or sex, or anything else.

Are there limits? Of course there are; at the very least, my fist is limited by your nose… but doing immoral, unethical, and unconstitutional things (and I include setting arbitrary limits on freedom in that list) in service of “a good cause”, does not make those things right.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Cali Going “Green” — Raising House Prices By Restricting Supply

California, in an attempt to fix the housing mess* by making houses less affordable by making you buy features you wouldn’t otherwise**, has announced new statewide building restrictions to go “green”.

From the Governator on down, nanny statists in California are more than willing to use force to make your life more expensive, and are quite happy to gloat about it the whole while:

Today, the California Building Standards Commission announced the unanimous adoption of the nation’s first statewide “green” building code. The code is a direct result of the Governor’s direction to the Commission and will lead to improved energy efficiency and reduced water consumption in all new construction throughout the state, while also reducing the carbon footprint of every new structure in California.

Unanimous? There’s nobody willing to step up and say “maybe we should let individuals decide how their houses should be built”? You can argue day in and day out whether building codes for safety purposes are a legitimate form of government coercion, but this is just nanny-state do-gooderism. It’s the logical next step to a government that won’t allow any market forces the freedom to develop the energy people want to use, so simply requires that they use less. Allowing market forces to price water, for example, might suggest to people that they should save water for their own sake. But government regulation artificially keeping water prices low means, of course, that they must either ration water, mandate regulation to reduce use through the building code, or both. Throwing bad government after bad? I’d say so.

“Once again California is leading the nation and the world in emissions reductions and finding new ways to expand our climate change efforts,” said Commission Chair Rosario Marin.

Sometimes being first is a good thing. Sometimes it’s not. Something tells me that increasing housing prices in a place like California, already far too expensive with other taxes and regulations (and market forces) for the average person to survive comfortably, will not end up helping the state.

“The commission should be commended for bringing everyone to the table including representatives of the construction and building trades industry, environmental groups and labor organizations, and achieving something no other state has been able to.”

“We railroaded this through in a bipartisan manner. Therefore it’s obvious that it’s futile to resist.”

The new California Green Building Standards Code goes well beyond the current building standards. These new statewide standards will result in significant improvements in water usage for both commercial and residential plumbing fixtures and target a 50 percent landscape water conservation reduction.

Plumbing fixtures? Better buy a plunger. Maybe even an auger when they get through with your house. Oh, and I hope you like Xeriscapes, because you’re going to see a lot more of them. (Again, this is a result of government artificially pricing water too low, and then enacting use restrictions that natural market forces could already have arranged).

They also push builders to reduce energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than today’s current standards.

Again, in many ways this is a good thing. But it’s not something that most people had deemed necessary to pay for in the past, or it wouldn’t need to be regulated.

They also push builders to reduce energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than today’s current standards.

I guess they thought this was really important to point out, since they repeated the sentence in the press release. Or perhaps they are just experts on “being green”, and not so much into the whole proofreading thing…

The new standards declare the minimum California will accept in environmentally friendly design – local jurisdictions and builders who wish to do more are applauded.

[clap clap clap]Yay, Berkeley! You go girl![/clap clap clap]

In addition to the new codes adopted today, Governor Schwarzenegger’s Green Building Initiative (Executive Order S-20-04) ( directs state agencies to reduce energy use at state-owned buildings 20 percent by 2015, while also reducing the impact state buildings have on climate change.

Please tell me they’re going to do this by reducing quantity of state buildings and number of state employees by this much!

His executive order directs that new state construction and major renovation projects should meet a minimum of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification in order to save energy, conserve water, divert waste from landfills and cut greenhouse gas emissions. To date, 13 state buildings have achieved LEED certification.

I guess that’s the end of major renovation projects to state buildings. Oh, wait, they’re spending our money? Never mind.

And wow, 13 whole buildings so far? What size bucket does that drop fall into?

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings nationwide account for 70 percent of electricity consumption, 39 percent of energy usage, 12 percent of potable water consumption, 40 percent of raw materials usage, 30 percent of waste output (136 million tons annually), and produce 39 percent of associated greenhouse gases (CO2).

I thought I learned from the NRA that buildings don’t waste energy, people do. Up next, Washington DC outlaws private ownership of buildings!

California’s new building standards will result in increased water and energy savings through a combination of more efficient appliances, use of efficient landscapes and more efficient building design and operation.

Again, I’m sure they’re not doing anything to increase the efficiency of government.

The code also encourages the use of recycled materials in carpets and building materials, and identifies various site improvements including parking for hybrid vehicles and better storm water plans.

Hey, so you get primo parking for your 20 mpg Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, while the guy with the much more environmentally-friendly 36 mpg Honda Civic languishes at the back of the lot. I’ll bet he produces a lot less smug, too.

Additionally, the new code contains standards for single-family homes, health facilities and commercial buildings. The code is composed of optional standards that will become mandatory in the 2010 edition of the code. This adjustment period will allow for industry and local enforcement agencies to prepare for, and comply with, the new green building standards.

This is why the construction industry went along… Anyone with half a brain will be pushing for their construction to be complete by 2010! After all, what California really needs is MORE real estate being developed, because we don’t have quite enough of a surplus now!

Moving forward after 2010, the California Green Building Standards Code will be updated on an annual basis to ensure that the latest technology and methods of construction have been incorporated to always maintain a high level of standards.

And here’s the giveaway to lobbyists. Just think how much money is going to be spent at the state capital ensuring that pet technologies get implemented into the code. Oh, and I’m sure regulations that change yearly will require a lot more inspectors and training, another fun way to spend taxpayer money. Sacramento should be a boom town over the next few years.

For more than 20 years, the California Building Standards Commission has established California as an international leader in areas such as energy conservation, water conservation and seismic strengthening—resulting in some of the most efficient and sustainable buildings in the world.

Ahh, the final buzzword. “Sustainable.” As long as they keep taxes and regulation just shy of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, Sacramento’s economy should remain sustainable. But just imagine if the local government was trying to pull this sort of shit in a state without beautiful scenery and picturesque beaches… They’d call it Detroit.
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