Property Rights

I Haven't Seen Anything Like This Since We Asked Brent Scowcroft to Trim His Hedges

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This story is a year old, but someone just sent it to me, and it made me chuckle. Last year, the city of McLean, Virginia asked for an easement to put a public sidewalk over a local resident's property. Unfortunately for the city, that resident happened to be former national security advisor and hardball Cold War negotiator Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Only in Washington could an overture for a sidewalk produce responses such as: "What commitments are envisaged, how guaranteed, and by whom regarding the preservation of our privacy by replacing new fencing, tall planting and/or brick wall, etc. What alternative proposals are there regarding the foregoing?"

At some point, it dawned on the residents that they were in the middle of the suburban version of a Cold War summit. One homeowners association member wrote to another in an e-mail: "Dr. B is treating this transaction as if he were negotiating a strategic arms treaty."

[…]

Brzezinski said he is open to negotiations. If his latest questions are answered—with real blueprints, not the "child-like drawings" he had been sent before—he might consent to a meeting.

"We need things in writing, not over some cup of coffee," he said. "Each time I respond with questions, all I get is a lot of puff."

He chuckled over the neighbors' comparison to the Cold War, saying that there was a difference: "The Soviet Union was a threat to us. These are my neighbors."

In a conciliatory tone, he added, "I want you to understand: This is not a conflict. It may well be a clash of civilizations, but it is not a conflict."

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  1. Funniest thing I’ve seen in a while, thanks, Rad.

  2. Well, if this is a year old, perhaps someone out there has an update on how this all shook out? Or is it still ongoing?

  3. See? Mutually Assured Sidewalks is no way to live.

    You cannot prepare for walking and cut the grass at the same time.

  4. under Fairfax law, a homeowner’s permission is needed for a sidewalk easement.

    Wow. That seems so … American.

  5. Wow. That seems so … American.

    I think it is beautiful. I was unaware that a county that goes out of its way to make citizens the subject of Imperial Colonial power actually has ONE law like this.

    Now, how about putting that million dollar meeting table at the county seat up on eBay, along with most of the other crap in that monstrosity of a monument to sovereignty “government center” too?

    Wasn’t that one of the counties that attempted to “repeal” the old Commenwealth concealed carry law by classifying almost everyplace as a “no gun zone” of some kind with fancy Orwellian renaming? Perhaps I am confusing that with some of their other nonsense.

  6. McLean is not an incorporated anything. It is a postal area inside Fairfax County. It is an area on a map and a twinkle in the USPS’s eye, nothing more.

  7. Guy,

    Yep, Fairfax County was a big part of the local government rebellion against Virginia’s conceal-carry.

    However, they are small shakes compared to Arlington County and Alexandria City in this regard.

  8. McLean is not an incorporated anything. It is a postal area inside Fairfax County. It is an area on a map and a twinkle in the USPS’s eye, nothing more.

    Kinda like Reston, a home owner’s association and home (in the past at least) to every IP address for AOL? Or like Dulles? Just the post office where AOL chose to get it’s mail delivered and later put up their galactic headquarters.

    Good info. Thank you!

    Here in Arlington there are no incorporated areas. “Crystal City” is just a development by the Charles E. Smith Corporation and “Pentagon City” is the same deal from Simon.

  9. we just saw Brzezinski speak day before yesterday at the Chicago Council.

    He had some excellent points. But he’s an asshole.

    He talked about “social justice” and “dignity” and decried america for being “hedonistic” and setting a poor example for the rest of the world, and that there wouldn’t be “enough to go around” if everybody behaved as “America does”.

    He was also okay with Yugoslavia.

    And he had some of that east coast smugness and had some low-hanging fruit “zingers” at dubyah.

    He also made noises in favor of Kyoto and in the UN world court.

    seemed more like a pro EU politician than anything else: if the US acted “european”, it would be “international” and therefore “suited” to “solve” the “problems”.

    ARGH!

    *head explodes

  10. However, they are small shakes compared to Arlington County and Alexandria City in this regard.

    About 2 years ago Arlington County still wanted people to “register” their firearms and had just begun revealing that it was not a “requirement”. They just wanted the serial numbers in case your guns were stolen. HA!

  11. I’m waiting for joe’s comment.

    I’m guessing that not even joe, tireless as he is in debate, would be keen on a showdown with Brzezinski.

    joe, what say you?

  12. Mr. Brzezinski, I have two words for you: Eminent Domain. All yer high-falutin’ uppity language cannot stop the juggerenaut of clipboard wielding agents of social control.

    It’s over. Lose with dignity.

  13. joe probably would have agreed with the lecture we saw on Wed. I kinda wanted to hear his response to it.

  14. Mr. Brzezinski, I have one word for you: vowels. You need a couple more of them.

    I wonder if he uses diplo-speak when telling those damned kids to get off his lawn?

  15. Kinda like Reston, a home owner’s association and home (in the past at least) to every IP address for AOL?

    Not quite like Reston, part of which was actually incorporated as the Town of Wiehle (as in Wiehle Avenue) back in 1898. (1897-98 Acts of Assembly ch. 279.) The developers weren’t able to make a go of the town, and the land was eventually bought by A. Smith Bowman Distillers (makers of Virginia Gentlemen.) I read an article in the Washington Post in the 1970s mentioning how some people in
    Reston were thinking about reviving the town government, then having the town annex all of Reston not already within its boundaries, as a way of getting around the law that prohibits the establishment of any new towns or cities within Fairfax County. A Google search reveals, to my surprise, that the charter was finally revoked in 1990, which means that that particular trick will no longer be possible.

  16. It’s tough to tell whether Brznski is being a dick, or just appropriately prudent about liability and construction specs.

    Really, a copy of the easement language and accurate preliminary plans are not unreasonable requests for a homeowner to make.

  17. Its not so much what he’s asking for, as the way he does it.

    You could just ask for a copy of the plans, etc., or you can be a pompous ass. B. obviously chose the latter.

  18. You know, “Are you going to have to cut that tree, or not?” is a perfectly reasonable question, and one that the government should already be able to answer before they start sending letters to people.

  19. Oh, R C.

    I don’t think it was any choice involved.

    Dude talks like a legal textbook. Whaddyagonna do?

  20. I wish I could give Zbigniew Brzezinski a hug for this priceless story.

    I hope someday that I might have the opportunity to do the same.

  21. He’s just being prudent. Trust, but verify.

  22. Really, a copy of the easement language and accurate preliminary plans are not unreasonable requests for a homeowner to make.

    Well, detailed construction plans and a legal descripion of the easement would be the minumum required to make an eminent domain taking but it looks like the County wants to do this on the cheap.

    That’s right, eminent domain is actually more expensive than a transaction with a willing seller. This is one more reason why its use needs to be limited to strictly public projects.

    I actually find it interesting that the County is taking this cooperative approach. And I agree with R C Dean, ZB sounds like he’s being a dick.

  23. It’s a fucking sidewalk. How hard can it be to say “We’re going to put it from ‘here’ to ‘here’, and in the process we’ll have to do X, Y, and Z to your lawn and landscaping?

    Just as importantly, how hard is it to just say “Yeah, I’m willing to have you put it in — I just want to know how much you’re going to rip up my yard in the process, and a guaruntee you’ll repair the damage as the cement is drying, rather than shaft me.”

  24. Also, keep in mind, Mr. Brzezinski is probably writing like that because he knows that his letter could potentially be part of a case file in a lawsuit. Of course it’s legalistic – if someone is negotiating over land rights, they should be taking care with what they put in writing.

  25. How hard can it be to say “We’re going to put it from ‘here’ to ‘here’, and in the process we’ll have to do X, Y, and Z to your lawn and landscaping?

    It’s not tough at all. But to be unambiguous legally enforceable it needs to be in writing and spelled out clearly with properly drawn plans and specifications. Otherwise there is always the possibility that one part will claim that the other has failed to meet its obligations.

    Just as importantly, how hard is it to just say “Yeah, I’m willing to have you put it in — I just want to know how much you’re going to rip up my yard in the process, and a guaruntee you’ll repair the damage as the cement is drying, rather than shaft me.”

    Likewise.!!!

  26. perhaps someone out there has an update on how this all shook out?

    I heard he had to give up the easement, and in protest he boycotted the Olympics.

  27. under Fairfax law, a homeowner’s permission is needed for a sidewalk easement.

    They could always just get the state to E.D. Brzezinski’s ass and give the strip of land to Wal-Mart, then pay Rob Walton to built a “SuperFence” there.

  28. This is fucking funny

  29. I wonder if he uses diplo-speak when telling those damned kids to get off his lawn?

    Isn’t that what he’s doing?

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