24 Fire and Gallstones

Guy Karon had heard of the acronym, ‘NIMBY’, for ‘Not in my back yard’.  There hadn’t been much objection on this side of Lake Michigan when he’d built his industrial strength ferry dock but its duplication had caused some concern on the Michigan side closer to a resort community. Now he was on the other side of the issue, the ‘Not’ side. He objected to this new development next door and wanted to light a fire under other residents to see if it could be stopped.Chapter 24 Fire and Gallstones He was the first to arrive at Bert Steinhardt’s door, the morning of their meeting.

“Good morning, come on in. This is my bloodhound, Pocano. I’ll just leave the door open for the others. Help yourself to coffee.”

“Lori Hazell’s not coming. In for treatment of gallstones. Although I have to say this proposed development is galling enough. And never heard back from your neighbor but isn’t she moving out?”

“Also galling, that one.”

Hans tapped on the open door and came in, overwhelmed by the size and volume of the penthouse and amazed that his unit and this one were in the same building. He joined them over coffee.

“I have a few more details about the proposal…” Hans was beginning, when Jack Pardoe and Earnest Arbuthnot arrived. They passed the treats around the dining table, while Pocano kept one watchful eye on the men and a hopeful one on the floor. Earnest got the business officially underway.

“Are we going to have a chair for this committee? Perhaps it would be better if one of you, besides Hans or myself, would do that.” Guy immediately offered.

“As Lori Hazell is dealing with her gallstones this morning, that leaves only Jack, and you and me, Bert. I could do it, if you are both going to be away again, soon.”  There were nods. This at least was agreed. “Hans was just saying, before you got here, that he had some new information. Hans?”

Lori and Fred Hazell. Lori is on the Alchemy committee, and suffers from gallstones, amongst other things.

Lori and Fred Hazell. Lori is on the Alchemy committee, and suffers from gallstones, amongst other things.

“Yes, as you know, this area is zoned residential, and high-rise, so it was more likely than not that something would eventually be proposed. I guess we all just presumed that the old lighthouse was a permanent fixture. Now, it looks like the development is generating interest from the preservationists because it will partially restore the lighthouse and incorporate it into a kind of a plaza at street level. The new building design will resemble a lighthouse.”

“A thirty-some story lighthouse?” Guy, who had seen a few lighthouses in his line of work, protested. “It will be massive at the base!”

“There was a proposal for a spiraling one, in Chicago. Supposed to be even taller,” Bert said. “Does this one spiral, too?”

“Not so far as I know, though it’s putting us in a tailspin,” quipped Hans.

“Our issue, I assume, is the actual placement of  the structure on the site. Depending on where it’s set, it would vary the impact on our building.” Guy looked around the table. “Everyone here is opposed to this project, correct? No secret supporters spying in our midst? I’d like to hear what you all have to say. Give us your ideas about what action we should be taking to stop it. Bert?”

“You know, I’m still having a bit of trouble visualizing this.” Bert turned to Hans for clarification. “So, you’re saying that there are some different places this could be set on the lot? And depending on that, it would or wouldn’t block the view? That’s what we’re talking about really, isn’t it?”

“That and how proximate, or close, it might be to us, yes,” Hans replied. They all followed Bert over to the windows and stood mentally moving the  monster lighthouse this way and that like a gigantic chess piece. Hans pointed out the more probable placements and the likely effect each might have.

Bert offered more coffee and pressed the pastries on his guests. “Eat up, we may need our strength on this one.” Bert knew he’d end up eating the leftovers or worse, sharing them with the dog.

“But there are factors other than structure to take into account,” said Earnest. “I recall a few cases like this in England. There are issues of increased traffic, loss of property value, and sense of community at stake, too.”

“Not blending in with existing architecture, likewise,” said Jack, “though in this case that might be moot, as there’s a lighthouse there already.”

“But not a thirty story one!” Guy repeated. “Surely the argument could be made that it wouldn’t blend in with the surrounding architecture.”

“Plus it would seem to be benefiting the new residents there at the expense of the people already living along the avenue, even though we have only been here a few years ourselves,” Jack added.

“Although, our building would arguably block their views as well, only in the other direction, at least on the lower floors, anyway,” said Earnest.

“On the other hand, I can see that the city would benefit from over thirty stories of new taxes on a single site. And the traffic, can’t see that as an issue for the city, either. This is a main street, after all. Out in the country, if we don’t like what’s going on, we just try to buy the other guy out,” said Bert.

“Please feel free to buy out this developer anytime, Bert,” said Guy. “Then we could disband this committee. In the meantime, does anyone have any suggestions about our direction here? Is everyone opposed to the project, as I asked earlier?” All of the heads were going up and down, so he continued. “Hans, what works best in these situations?”

Guy Karon, father of Lee, brother of Carrie, owner Lake Michigan ferry service

Guy Karon, father of Lee, brother of Carrie, owner Lake Michigan ferry service

“Letters and publicity sometimes have an effect. Attending city council meetings to express opinions. Going on record with a list of plausible, truly plausible, objections. It can have an effect on the number of votes required to approve the project. Hysteria isn’t helpful, in my experience. Neither is expressing what’s known as a ‘drawbridge mentality’, as though we, an elite, were entitled to our own castle and surrounding moat. That won’t wash in the city. Sometimes, it’s possible to press for changes to the design, to make it less awful, lowering the number of storeys, for instance. That’s happened before…” Into their deliberations, the wail of the fire alarm intruded.

“Did we get a notice the alarms would be tested this morning?” Jack was the first to react. The fire department insisted on regularly testing alarms.

“No, this isn’t scheduled,” confirmed Earnest. “There must be smoke in one of the hallways. Let’s go down the stairs, see what’s going on. Come on.”

“That’s one way to get rid of our objections,” said Guy, “burn us out of house and home!”

“Come on Pocano, get your nose in gear!” coaxed Bert, as they all raced towards the back stairs.