Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Hysterical Society

So when Henry and Jose and their 5 man crew showed up to work on the roof (probably doubling the number of Hispanics in Cheshire this morning) Henry went to Town Hall to get a building permit. Strange, I thought, since they'd already done a full day's work and finished about a quarter of the shingles. But another contractor today told me people do that a lot since building permits for roofs are pro forma most of the time. They are really great guys and are doing a remarkable job and leave the site immaculate.

Since having 7 people on the roof hammering and scraping makes our already neurotic dog a basket case, thinking he has to protect us from the onslaught, I was in bed reading and he was beside me. (The bedroom is the only place he'll calm down and stop barking.) I was half asleep when Bern came in and said, "the have to stop working".

I showed a sleepy uncomprehending look and she said, "Go talk to Henry."

"The guy was signing the permit," he told me, "and started to hand it to me when he noticed the address again. He said, 'which end of Cornwall is this on?' and when I told him the Route 10 end, he took back the permit."

So the guy who gives building permits said to stop whatever they were doing since this would have to go by the Historic Commission. That had never occurred to me since we were replacing shingles with shingles and not making a structural change. It seemed like normal and needed maintenance to me.

So I go to talk to the guy at Town Hall who is the staff liaison to the Historic Commission and the Planning and Zoning Committee. He shook my hand and looked extremely grave. "I don't want to put you to any trouble," he said and proceeded to put me to a great deal of trouble.

He laboriously explained that a new roof is, in fact, an alteration to my frigging 1850 house that needed either an exemption or approval from the Commission. So I filled out a form for an exemption since I consider a new roof 'maintenance', gave him a check for $25 for the privilege of filling out the form for an exemption and told me again he didn't want to cause me any problems and he was sure this could be resolved at the March 5 meeting of the Historic Commission which, obviously, has no process to do anything except at their monthly meetings! I was about to say, "isn't there someone I can bribe?" when I realized Planning and Zoning people probably wouldn't realize it was a joke and I'd be in big trouble....

So I come back to talk to Henry and Jose and explain the bad news. They cleaned up (though the guy at Town Hall told them not too) and nailed a huge blue tarp to the part of the roof that is exposed (though the guy told them not too).

So I have to bring a sample of the current shingle and a sample of the shingle that covers a quarter of my house to the Historic Commission Meeting on March 5, not make jokes and ask pretty please for an exemption to whatever rule we have seemed to violate. Given I have a quarter of my house with new shingles, a quarter with old shingles and half shingle less, It seems a weird exercise.

(I'm no good with Historic Preservation people. When I was Rector of St. John's in Waterbury we wanted to tear down an old building for more parking. A church needing more parking seemed a good thing to me but, lo and behold, it was in the historic district and we had to go to the state Historic Commission to get permission. I went to the first of several meetings and listened to the Commission drone on about the historic significance of that building and offering options to tearing it down. Finally, I interrupted and said, "It's just an old building...."

They had to adjourn for a few minutes to get their composure back and the lay folks never let me go to another meeting with the State Historic Commission....)

Maybe I'll change my voter registration to Republican or Libertarian and start protesting with the Tea Party dudes about 'getting government out of our lives'....

Well, that won't happen, but I was feeling a bit homicidal after meeting with the P and Z guy....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.