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Rumble in the Mountains

By Edited Jan 8, 2016 0 0

Over the last week there has been some interesting rumbling in the mountains. In the small unincorporated village where I live there is a commercial property center in the midst of the house. This is a nice design. It's better than a regular subdivision where you have to drive for miles over speed bumps at 5 miles an hour just to get a quart of milk. The place where I live has a slightly more intuitive layout. The houses surround a common area with a couple of small parks, a grocery store, some restaurants, boutiques and the post office where I work. The closest houses are near enough to walk to the town center, the farther away ones radiate out no further than a couple of miles in any direction.

Despite the town center, the subdivision retains a country atmosphere. There are only 1300 boxes available at the post office. I'm guessing the number of lots for sale must be slightly less than that because some people have rented more than one PO box per property. At any rate, you tend to know everyone when you walk down the street. There is also a golf course and the requisite club house to go with the golf course. A small swimming pool is on the same club house property. Nearby is a horse stable and RV parking for home owners.

As I understand it, the insurance liability coverage for the post office I work at covers only the slip and falls that occur inside the building. The rest of the surrounding property, all of the parking spaces, deck, gravel walkways etc are all covered by what is known to us as "the commercial property owners association" insurance policy. This is a great help to the business owners, as now they don't need to wrangle over whose fault it is if an accident occurs in front of a building that houses several businesses. The problem started when a restaurant owner started serving beer an allowing his patrons to drink outside his establishment at picnic tables. It was certainly friendly and picturesque. Except the insurance policy was never written to contemplate this added attraction: namely drunk people.

You would think the restaurant owner would understand that surely he was creating more liability for the policy than the post office per se, or the hair dresser, or the lady who owned the gift shop. However, the restaurant owner really didn't want to understand. He didn't want to buy his own insurance policy. He didn't care to spend the additional money. For two years he skated, without incident or separate coverage, while the insurance carrier complained, cajoled, extended and threatened to stop coverage for everyone if the situation was not rectified.

Finally the association decided they would take matters into their own hands. They went and forcibly removed the fencing that enclosed the picnic tables so that the restaurant owner no longer had a clearly defined area for his drinking patrons. I doubt they thought the show of force would go over well. The restaurant owner had never capitulated. Adding insult to injury the association board members took a chainsaw to a memorial the restaurant owner had erected for a deceased patron. Bad idea! Although they were clearly enjoying the destruction much more than they should have, they had now over stepped their bounds.

The restaurant owner wrote a nice one page anonymous memo about the memorial for a Vietnam War Veteran being destroyed. He did not mention of course any of the insurance issues. Why bother when his intent was to annoy? No, with escalating verbiage he likened the destruction to the desecration of the Vietnam Wall Memorial in Washington DC. He speculated that other war memorials in our area were in danger of being destroyed as well. He asked in his unsigned open memo if this was how a war hero should be treated who had "layed" (sic) down his life for his country.

Of course some of the community members got riled. Especially the war veterans. An evening vigil was planned. As the members drank they egged each other on. They all agreed that a certain member of the Commercial property owners association was personally to blame. They created hand made signs and posters to voice their displeasure. At the weekend festival, usually a nice annual affair with a parade and pony rides and vender booths, the upset drunk community members marched and heckled the offending board member. It was childish to the max.

Unsatisfied with the ugly statements they had made, they decided to staple their handmade signs to the fence near the entrance to the restaurant. I'm sure their hopes were to create more anger amongst the veterans in the community. As for the board member, their behavior only served to make her feel more self righteous. The insurance needs to be purchased after all. People who sit outside and drink of course pose more of a liability than people walking into the dime store.

I suggested they sit down and talk to each other and really listen to what the other person wanted. Wouldn't that be better than letting it turn into an expensive lawsuit? I asked. They weren't interesting in listening so much as they were interested in winning. I don't think either side is afraid at all of an expensive lawsuit, which is too bad for the innocent home owners. I suppose it will cost them about a thousand dollars each to make any kind of settlement. There is a possibility that the restaurant owner will run out of money and stop paying his lawyers. If that happens he may attempt to sell the building that houses his restaurant as well as the three businesses inside of it – but will they be worth anything by then? Who will want to buy a restaurant that doesn't show it turns a profit in a remote location?

And what about the board, will they continue to be able to attract homeowners to buy homes in a subdivision where the annual amenities cost so much? Aren't they really driving down the value of the homes for everyone?

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