Sunday, January 28, 2007

lean on me

Slogging through my property outline tonight, I ran across some law that made me remember something weird that happened in the tiny town where my family lives. The law is to do with land. If you own land, one of your rights is to the lateral and subjacent support of your land in its natural state by the land around it. That means, nobody can come along and excavate right up to the border of your land if that would cause your land to "subside" (aka: fall off). Ditto for people who have rights to the land underneath you, like for mining. They can't just come along and dig out everything underneath you so that your own land caves in. That's not ok and they're stricly liable for most damage they cause that way.

Reading about this reminded me of this property dispute in my dad's town. Years ago, a property devolper bought up a huge tract of land along the main road in between one part of town and another part of town with the intention of putting in a strip mall anchored by a huge grocery store. There was just one problem: one landowner wouldn't budge. This family had a house on top of a hill, right in the middle of the developers big plan and they would not be bought out. The developer tried and tried but to no avail. Eventually, he whipped out the big guns.

One day, driving through town during one of my visits, I was shocked to see that the entirety of the developers property had been excavated, totally leveled, except for the tiny square portion that held that house and a tiny strip of driveway left to accomodate them. The house stood on an unnatural mesa, like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Where once was a gently rising hill, now was a flat waste-land interrupted by a weird, spindle of land with a house on top.

The property developer, playing hardball, hoped this would drive the family away, but they were tough and they held on. It took a few years, but the family finally gave in after someone fell off the side of the property and died. Yep, pretty rough. Apparently it was nighttime and people were drinking outside and, you know, one thing leads to another, cousin Jim walks off to take a piss and, woops, no more cousin Jim.

I don't know the details, but I hope somebody was able to get some money out of that developer for making their yard a fucking health hazard. But who knows. All I *do* know is that there was no compromise of lateral or subjacent stability. Regardless of falling people, the house and the land stayed put until the family finally sold and the bulldozers came along and finished things off.

** Weird epilogue** They eventually built a Bi-Lo grocery store in that spot and my brother Isaac got his one and only job bagging groceries there. He was a hugely popular bagger and some old ladies would specifically go to his line, although, whenever I was in there he acted shy and sulky which, I guess, is how young people act around family. Now I go in there and I doubt there's anybody left who even remembers him. It's been so long.


Anonymous Joolie said...

Our gigantic, recently built state office building practically surrounds this little six-unit apartment house next door. It's the only residential, non-government property for several blocks, and I always wonder how the owner was able to stave off the state of Texas, which surely wanted that land to build a bigger loading dock or whatever. It cheers me up whenever I walk past it.

12:09 AM  

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