Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Revenge is a Dish Best Served Buzzing

File this under "unintended consequences," a story of one businessman's revenge upon some meddling civic officials (via Reason).

Michael Zarlenga owned the Trophy Room, a hunting and fishing store in the historic downtown portion of Alexandria, Virginia. Over the course of two years, and at the cost of more than $350,000, Zarlenga made plans to expand the store:

Zarlenga's saga with the building dates to 2001, when he opened his hunting and fishing store. In 2006, he bought the building with the idea of renovating and expanding it to include more retail space, a bathroom and an elevator.

He hired a Washington architectural firm, which created eight designs for the project. The final one included plans to raise the roof on the back of the building and demolish a small section of a historic brick wall that was built about 1800. Most of the back wall would have been incorporated into the renovation.

Zarlenga said he consulted Alexandria's historical preservation staff along the way to be sure everyone was on board with his plans. He said he relied heavily on the advice of Peter Smith, who at the time was the principal staff member of the city's Board of Architectural Review.

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.
Read that again. After spending a lot of money based on advice from the city fathers, they turned around and shot him down. Without an explanation, no less.

Zarlenga, of course, was pissed. So he got his revenge by renting out his building to another business - a sex shop, Le Tache. It is having the desired effect, with the city fielding complaints while feebly explaining that there is nothing they can do about the business. The owner of La Tache is aware of the irony:
Kenney, who says he caters to couples, had no retail presence in Old Town before because he hadn't found a receptive landlord. But in Zarlenga, he got an owner who didn't mind rankling city leaders.
Heh. Karma is a bitch, isn't it?

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