This story made my day.
Michael Zarlenga spent $350,000 to expand his hunting and fishing store in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia (just down the road from me). To cover his bases, Zarlenga paid an architectural firm to draw up eight separate plans he could submit to the city, and worked with the city's Board of Architectural Review every step of the way. According to the Washington Post, he consulted with and relied heavily upon the advice of the committee's principal staff member to be sure he did everything correctly.
You know where this is going.
But when the project came before the review board in 2007, it was rejected partly on Smith's recommendation that it would cause an "unreasonable loss of historic fabric." Zarlenga said Smith did not explain to him why he changed his mind. Smith has since died…
Zarlenga said he felt as though the rug had been pulled out from under him. He appealed to the City Council but lost in September 2007. Council members suggested he go back to the staff of the architectural review board and submit new plans.
For Zarlenga, it was the final straw. He choked back tears as he told the council he was finished: "I have no faith in the staff. . . . They have completely taken the integrity, as I see it, out of the system. . . . The simple fact is there's no money left, okay?"
But Zarlenga got his revenge. He leased the space—which is right on King Street, the main drag through utlra-touristy Old Town—to a sex shop. The shop is in full compliance with zoning laws, and even if the city were to change those laws, Zarlenga would have to be grandfathered in. Furious Alexandria officials are now looking into whether they can shut the shop down through obscenity laws.
In 2007, I wrote about how Alexandria's ridiculous zoning laws were achieving the exact opposite of their intent—to preserve Old Town's unique charm and identity.