Daily Archives: July 1, 2005

The Dog Days of Summer

Very little is going on these days as the town slips into its summer somnolence. Fourteen single family homes went to contract last week, twenty-seven new listings appeared and twenty-one houses dropped their prices. There’s no sense of urgency among buyers right now. Nor should there be, much as I hate to admit it (I like to eat all year round); summertime is the perfect season for a leisurely inspection of what’s for sale and careful decision making. If you like a house, it will probably still be available a week or two from now and probably longer.

Which is not to say that you shouldn’t be out there looking and, if the price is right, buying. There are a lot of very nice houses currently in inventory and many of them have reduced their prices to near-bargain prices. They will sell, and if you wait until the fall to make offers on them you’ll be disappointed to discover that they’re gone or the sellers, emboldened by the return of the selling season, reject your lowball offer. The market is not collapsing so far as I can see, so if you think that prices will be still lower in September, think again.

And Speaking of Bargains

Martha Jeffrey has listed a six-unit condominium project on William Street that offers some very good value the best of which, I think, is unit 45-B, a brand new townhouse with three bedrooms, attached garage and a huge back yard, all for $1,750,000. Smaller, newly renovated units are asking $1,095,000 and $875,000, respectively. I like their in-town location and I especially like their new, lower prices. Check them out.

Private Property Rights, Diminished

The U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in the Kelo case, permitting the City of New London to seize private property from homeowners and hand it over to another group of private individuals in order to generate greater tax income has people on both the left and the right concerned (not the New York Times of course, which welcomed this extension of state power both out its usual desire to see an ever-expanding government and because its own land-grab for new headquarters in New York depends on exactly the Kelso outcome). But for non-knee-jerk thinkers of all political persuasions, the decision is disturbing. The result is a victory for Wal-Mart and other big-box stores; what politician wouldn’t drool at the prospect of replacing tax revenues from a motley collection of, say, car repair joints and run-down houses (or brand new houses-nothing in the majority opinion prevents it) with that of a Wal-Mart? For those of us concerned over the ever-expanding trampling of individual rights by municipal, state and the federal government, these words of Justice Story, writing in 1833 (Commentaries on the Constitution, sec. 1393), still ring true:

“[S] ince the American revolution no state government can be presumed to possess the transcendental sovereignty, to take away vested rights of property; to take the property of A. and transfer it to B. by a mere legislative act. That government can scarcely be deemed to be free, where the rights of property are left solely dependent upon a legislative body, without any restraint.”

The only “restraint” left after the Kelso case is that some eager town-planner must draft a development plan that offers a “better” use of property than its present owner is employing and that, of course, is no restraint at all. Will the Republicans put their flag desecration bill on a back burner and draft a bill repealing this decision? Will the Democrats do anything? Since both parties depend on contributions from large corporations and neither wants to offend municipal and labor unions, don’t hold your breath.

Discrimination at the Beach?

A friend of mine was one of several Black women recently denied permission to conduct an exercise program at Tod’s. She, rightly, took offense and wondered if the denial was based on her skin color. Town officials insist that they prohibit all such groups regardless of the race of the participants and I guess I believe them – we have more stupid rules governing beach behavior than anyone other than a bureaucrat could possibly believe. No swim fins, no unapproved personal floatation jackets, no sunblock under 40 SPF, etc. I fought a similar battle in 1976 when I and a handful of other windsurfers decided to use the western shore of Tod’s as a launching site for our craft. Drove the town crazy. They’d never seen windsurfers and didn’t have any rules governing their use but we were obviously having fun so there had to be something wrong – they harassed us mercilessly. But today, if you drive by that location, you’ll see an officially sanctioned sign, “Windsurfer crossing”. So I hope the exercise folks persevere and get their class; I’d much prefer to think that my town is engaging in its usual stupidity rather than engaging in racist behavior.

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