Sneaking Suspicions
Archives-- March 26-April 8, 2006

This page includes posts from March 26-April 8, 2006 in the usual reverse order. Each posting on the home page is perma-linked to these archive pages.

April 5, 2006
New York spring

Last night we played in the opening match of Shawnee Country Club's mixed golf league, under fairly pleasant though windy conditions. It stayed in the high 50s during the entire evening.

We won 3-0, thankewverymuch.

This morning I left home early, took a train from Wilmington, and traveled to New York City for a meeting of several attorneys involved with an aspect of the EZPass electronic toll collection system.

What a difference a couple hundred miles can make, at least during the early spring.

During the morning session, it started snowing--hard. It was blowing so thick that it was nearly impossible to see Ellis Island from our conference room at the foot of Manhattan:

A snowy scene at the southern tip of Manhattan, April 5, 2006

The island is the slightly fuzzy, low-lying object in the far distance, just above the center of the picture.

Fortunately, the sun came out before the meeting ended, and I had a chance to see something I always enjoy looking at during my NYC trips:

Statue of Liberty, April 5, 2006

Seeing this statue never gets old.

April 3, 2006
A sign of respect

I drove by the C-5 accident site this morning on the way to work.

The huge crippled plane rested in a farm field in three pieces, just south of the Dover Air Force Base and close to the historic John Dickinson mansion. Several emergency vehicles were parked along State Route 9, the Base’s southern and eastern border, and others surrounded the downed cargo plane.

A helicopter circled the accident scene, but in the gray light I couldn't tell if it was the State Police's chopper or one from a television station.

My clients at DelDOT had already blocked off Route 9 completely.

The most noticeable thing about the situation, however, was the near-absence of gawkers.

At most, there were about ten vehicles parked along Route 1 near its intersection with Route 9. Route 1 veers west and north at that point toward Dover, along and through the western portion of the Base.

I think the low number of rubber-neckers is due to a few factors that don't fit with other air crashes.

DAFB is not commercial, so there's simply not the same crush of thousands of potential onlookers nearby.

Fortunately there was no fire. This is probably a tribute to the piloting skill of the crew, as well as the C-5's design and upkeep.

In the immediate vicinity of the crash site, DelDOT had previously signed the area as a "No Stopping, Standing, or Parking" location. This formal legal limit was expanded on the roads adjacent to the Base and its runway approach areas after the First Gulf War, and again after 9/11.

Most importantly, however, there's the fact that the Air Base is a major employer for central Delaware. Lots of folks either work there, or retired from there, or know someone who’s still working there. Not stopping to look can be taken as a sign of respect.

On the way home tonight, for example, no one was anywhere near the accident scene, other than the folks who were working on some aspect of the recovery.

And that's how it should be.

April 1, 2006
A woefully insufficient sense of humor

As long-time readers of this site know, I also write a weekly golf column for The Cape Gazette.

Like most such papers, local land use issues are frequently the primary topic of news interest for its readership, along with the ancillary matters such as schools and sewers.

For the weekly readers of the Glastonbury Citizen in Connecticut, those same coverage choices probably also dominate the paper’s decisions about what to fit in among the real estate ads and such. One recurring topic in early 2004 dealt with a developer’s controversial proposal to build a new shopping center.

In itself, that’s not at all surprising. On the other hand, exactly two years ago today the paper’s management decided to try something a bit unusual, and to a certain extent it backfired on them.

The April 1, 2004 edition ran the phrase “April Fools” across the newpaper’s heading, along with the word “NOT” partly covering the newspaper’s title banner on the front page.

Interspersed among smaller stories, such as one about a Nobel Prize-winning student at the local Glastonbury school, appeared the main piece for that page. It announced that the developer’s shopping center’s plans now included a 250,000 square foot Walmart store, a helicopter launching pad, and the state’s largest Hooters Restaurant. The logo sign for the orange and white monument to questionable taste in dining was reported to be sited directly across a local church and elementary school. 

The developer was not amused.

He sued the newspaper after failing to obtain a retraction, alleging defamation among other charges.

In mid-February, 2006, a judge in Connecticut’s Superior Court reminded the plaintiff that sometimes you just have to take a joke, no matter how unfunny it is to you:

Defamation is, by its nature, mutually exclusive of parody. … [D]efamation requires a false statement of fact; parody, to the degree that it is perceived as parody by its intended audience, conveys the message that it is not the original and, therefore, cannot constitute a false statement of fact…. Moreover, ‘the hypothetical reasonable person… is no dullard. He or she does not represent the lowest common denominator, but reasonable intelligence and learning. He or she can tell the difference between satire and sincerity [citation omitted]. 

No such reasonable reader could construe the article in question as anything other than a parody. The defendants took considerable care to make it clear that the page where this article appeared did “NOT” contain genuine news articles. … [T]he article itself described development plans which were so extreme as to be obviously preposterous.

Victoria Square, LLC v. Glastonbury Citizen, 891 A.2d 142 (Conn. Super. 2006).

Thus endeth the law suit—unless this humorless plaintiff plans to take it up on appeal, which would be as bad an idea as filing the suit in the first place. 

Besides, it’s not as if the developer didn’t have another option to express his displeasure with being the object of this little satire.

If he ever builds that shopping center, and the tenant mix is popular enough, he could decide to refrain from buying any advertising space from the Citizen. 

That kind of boycott would certainly prove that he has a woefully insufficient sense of humor, but the editor and publisher might notice another effect.

March 28, 2006
A Radio Plug

Tim Conlon maintains a remarkable collection of thousands of songs in a wide variety of genres, and is a drummer for a local band. If I'm any indication, Conlon also has somewhat questionable taste in who he chooses to have as long-time friends.

Conlon's regular work is in finance for the University of Virginia, but now he's also doing some fun DJ stints at the school's radio station, WTJU (91.1 FM in Charlottesville).

You can listen to Tim's show online from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesdays. In addition, on March 31 from 6 to 9 a.m., Tim will be opening up this season's fund drive for WTJU with a three-hour broadcast of the best of Firesign Theater.

How cool is that?

I hope he runs a few Porgie Tirebiter episodes.

March 27, 2006
Not really eligible, anyway

A young writer named Ben Domenech managed to set a new speed record for self-immolation last week, with the announcement of his new part-time job as a blogger for the Washington Post and his resignation a few days later based on a series of past plagiarism episodes.

The ever-helpful Max Sawicky went through his blogroll of Readable Righties and discussed the relative merits of several bloggers as potential replacements for young Ben.

Among this select group, Sawicky thought that Tom Maguire was the best choice:

O.K. Now we're dealing with a heavyweight. Maguire slices the baloney as well as anyone; he didn't just swallow the kool-aid, he brewed it and stuck a lemon wedge on top. But he might be too good. So do I hurt my cause by promoting an effective right-wing blogger, or do I help it by promoting him, thereby blackening his reputation?

I would like to say that we communists think the world of Tom Maguire and heartily recommend him to represent Wingnuttia.

Maguire was touched, but declined the honor in a typically witty post.

On the other hand, Sawicky didn’t think I was a particularly good candidate, for his own reasons:

Sneaking Suspicions. Not really right-wing, except compared to me.


That’s not what some other folks have said about my politics, including several family members, but what the heck.

From now on, if I’m ever accused of being too conservative, I’ll just tell them to go talk to Max.

March 26, 2006
Your parking problem is not your neighbor’s responsibility

Living year-round in a seasonal beach community means you reside in two places without actually moving. 

The summer is full. Thousands of tourists pour in, fill up the available housing stock, and park their cars wherever they can. A residential parking pass, such as those issued by the City of Rehoboth Beach or the Town of Dewey Beach, is more like a hunting permit than a guarantee that you’ll be able to park anywhere near your intended destination. 

During the winters, however, most of the houses sit empty, and so are most of the streets. It’s easy to move around. 

We’re fine with this arrangement, by the way. Most year-rounders recognize that we wouldn’t have what we enjoy in the off-season if we didn’t also have the tourist season--which also has its own attractions. 

Master Sam Glasscock, III, of Delaware’s Chancery Court recently issued a decision about a property easement in Dewey Beach, where the summer parking crush was the source of the problem—that, and some folks’ unwarranted belief that their neighbors should take care of it for them.

A long time ago, a Dewey Beach property owner subdivided his lot into four pieces. The subdivision plan included a 15-foot wide easement running along the western edge of the property, which runs north along the right side of the utility poles you see in this photo:

The deed restrictions also imposed an additional 10 feet of clear space east of the 15-foot easement. That part of the deed doesn’t appear to have been honored, does it?

To the west of the subdivided parcels is an open lot owned by the Dewey Beach Lions Club. There’s a children’s play area on the Club property’s eastern edge. The gravel path on the west side of those utility poles shown above, called the Strip, is used by folks to park when using the playground.

Here's a picture of part of the fenced-in playground, with the properties east of the Lions Club parcel appearing in the background:

Over the years, the folks renting these four beach homes tended to fill up the 15-foot easement with their parked cars. Others trying to reach these homes would use the Strip instead. In part, that’s because it’s pretty common for a single house to hold a large number of tenants, most of whom crowd into the beach on the weekends. 

Eventually, the Lions Club became enmeshed in a dispute over their path, especially when the four property owners to the east began claiming that they had become legally entitled to treat the Strip as an expanded easement area for their own purposes. The Club formally moved to quiet title to their property. 

The property owners’ strongest legal claim was that the Strip had become theirs through adverse possession. However, Master Glasscock found that the Lions had made the Strip open to the public to use to reach the playground. Under those circumstances, there was nothing particularly noteworthy, or legally sufficient to establish adverse possession, based on the fact that the property owners and their tenants also used the Strip to reach their beach homes. 

Glasscock’s conclusion put the situation in its appropriate context, while also ruling for the Lions Club: 

When the lots currently belonging to the Owners were created many years ago, they included the use of a 15' easement along their western boundaries to allow access from the public street. As the years have passed and what were originally simple cottages were transformed into substantial beach homes, the Owners and, particularly, their summertime renters and invitees, found it convenient to park in the easement. Some of the properties were rented to groups for the summer, and these tenants were forced to park their multiple vehicles in areas which included the easement, if they were to park them on the properties at all. At the same time, just to the west of the easement, the Strip was open to the public as a right-of-way for access to the Lions Club playground. It was, therefore, natural for the Owners and their guests and renters to avoid the easement, clogged with parked cars, and instead drive to the properties over the Strip. Because of the public license to use this area, however, the Owners’ use was not hostile to the rights of the possessor of the property, and therefore[e] no prescriptive rights in the Owners’ favor were established.

At least in this beach town context, in other words, your parking problem is not your neighbor’s responsibility.


Contact Information:

Fritz Schranck
P.O. Box 88
Nassau, DE  19969

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© Frederick H. Schranck 2002-2005