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Dave Astor Headshot

House of the Rising Blood Pressure

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What the heck is an American flag doing there?, I asked myself.

Before answering that, let me first tell you the story from the beginning. A couple on my block wanted to sell half their modest-sized property. These sellers would make tons of money, while the buyer would squeeze a new house into the acquired lot.

And I thought "suburban sprawl" just described the way my sleeping cat is splayed across the sofa.

Did this subdividing couple desperately need the money? No! For years, they had been rich enough to drive a fancy SUV and hire landscapers with loud machines to maintain their yard.

Yup, Bob Dylan "went electric" in 1965 to be heard over the sound of tractor mowers.

This couple also spent plenty on "experts" (including a lawyer and the town's ex-planner) to help convince the local planning board to approve the subdivision. The overdevelopment-besotted board gave its OK despite the fact that several variances were needed to cram a new house into a lot that the town's own rules said was too small.

To make room for the new dwelling, the couple even had to slice off a wing of their existing house! I'm not sure who did the slicing, but it might have been the supermarket deli guy.

Also, the subdivision was approved despite the opposition of the vast majority of the block's residents -- many of whom are less affluent than the subdividers. And many of these opponents have lived on the street longer than the selfish couple, who are now loved by their neighbors as much as the Tea Party loves Barack Obama.

One opponent, a friendly retired machinist who died last month at age 94, had been on the block since Harry Truman was president. But these days, the buck stops ... in the subdividers' pockets. Many bucks.

A number of the opponents joined in filing an appeal. A defer-to-wealth-and-power judge ruled for the subdividing couple and planning board. Some opponents put signs on their lawns saying "No More Houses!" But the town cracked down on our free speech before finally allowing us to display the placards for a few short weeks after we publicly complained about the crackdown.

Of course, the town did not crack down on a real-estate company's lawn sign that advertised the sale of the couple's side lot for months and months and months. So the next time you march to protest a war or something, be sure to protect yourself from legal sanctions by carrying a real-estate sign.

A developer with "LLC" in his company's name purchased the side lot. Soon, two gorgeous old trees were axed and shredded. Construction began last month, and work on the new house insensitively starts soon after 7 a.m. many weekdays (and even started at about 7:30 a.m. one Saturday!). Deafening noise and clouds of dirt enter the open windows of my non-air-conditioned abode, and affect other neighbors, too. Also, an ugly portable toilet sat near the street for weeks. When I phoned to politely ask that this potty be moved further back, the developer hung up on me.

Seems like "LLC" stands for "Lose 'Loo' Calls."

And, yes, the stars-and-stripes are waving next to the construction site. Which leads me back to the question that opened this blog post: What the heck is an American flag doing there?

Well, what's more American than ravaging precious open space and getting richer while making other people miserable?