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David Lybrand guest editorial
[Published on the Key West Citizen Opinions Page on October 8, 2006.]
City of Key West taking
advantage of a good neighbor
It could happen to you, too, if you let it.
Picture this: You buy a house in front of a big empty lot.
Some of the neighborhood folks have been using your driveway to go see a pretty view from that lot. Being a good neighbor, you let them keep using it. Over the years the traffic grows, but you don’t complain.
One day the owner of that empty lot decides to sell it.
The buyer dreams of setting up new attractions on the lot, but no plan is made for how people should get there.
After all, you have been nice enough to let folks through your driveway up to now, so you shouldn’t complain if his development pushes a lot more folks through it — right?
But when you see this happening, you push the buyer to find ways to avoid sending all visitors through your driveway.
After all, that buyer also owns other property directly connected to the lot. His own property has several paths that already dead-end at the edge of the fenced lot. But you’re a good neighbor, so you still agree to continue allowing lots of people to use your driveway (yes, even more than before) as long as the buyer does his part to assume at least some of the traffic between his properties.
The buyer agrees that it’s fair to open up a couple of holes in his fence. So you continue allowing all of the traffic through your driveway until the buyer follows through on his agreement.
Time passes and the buyer starts working to improve the lot, but never follows through on his agreement to open up his fence. For a while he just promises to get to it “soon.”
But eventually he tells you, “That wasn’t really me who made that agreement, I’ve changed since then.” And he tunes out your protests.
You get his attention by asking a judge to try to tell him he’s not being fair. So he agrees to sit down and discuss his promise again. Once more you do your neighborly duty and agree to carry even more of the traffic on your driveway, as long as he will go ahead and open his own fence between the two parts of his property.
He agrees — for a day or two.
Then, once again, he tosses out his agreement. Not only that, he now begins to threaten to take your driveway away from you.
And to rub it in, he bad-mouths you all over town, accusing you of being the bad guy for not rolling over and letting him take over your driveway without a fight. He threatens to also take over other parts of your property. He makes inflammatory statements, evoking class warfare. He accuses you of being the one who is a bad neighbor, despite your years of service to the community.
Somehow he ignores the cost that it would take for him to take over your property. Though he’s already gotten in trouble several times for throwing his weight around like this, and owes a lot of money to others who have fought back, he won’t let that get in the way of a good fight. After all, he has the power to shake down the whole neighborhood later, to get back what it’ll cost him.
Of course the only response to this kind of threat is to again ask the judge to talk some sense into the bully.
If this were your home, wouldn’t you
David Lybrand is a Truman Annex resident who lives on Southard Street.
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