Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Hot Sultry Municipal Affair

They never meant for it to happen.  They were both highly principled, but a deep burning need brought them together.
Building Code was a good man.  He was  rugged and broad shouldered, with good hands and a muscular body, shaped by a lifetime of physical work.   His passion was safety.  Although quiet by nature, he had seen too many tragedies and travesties in his lifetime to stay silent. Disadvantaged workers trapped in burning factories, disabled people barred from public spaces, children falling from balconies; these were the stories that kept him going.  He wasn’t always well liked, but that happens when you speak your mind.
He had been married to Province for many years.  It was a good marriage filled with respect and friendship, but passion had turned into comfort long ago.  He didn’t miss it, though.  Passion was a young man’s game.  He had focused that wild energy into his life’s work. 
Land Use was kind and soft-spoken.   She was tall and graceful with sparkly eyes and a smile that could light up a coal mine.  She loved to see everyone get along.  She was a friend to all sorts of folks, from paper mills to log cabins.   She was married to Municipality.  They were happy and they made a good team.  But their work kept them so busy, that they often felt like two ships passing in the night.
Her gift for keeping everyone happy had become her work.  Before industrialization it had all been so simple. Shoemaking, millinery, carpentry, these were all traditional home industries.  Small general stores, blacksmith shops, and mill shops lived side by side, in harmony with homes.  But when noisy factories came along and cars became commonplace, things got complicated.  Land Use was a master of keeping goodwill in communities.  She kept the noisy and odorous industries far from the homes; she supported the retail shops by keeping them close together, so that the customers from one establishment could easily visit a neighbouring one.  She formed exclusively residential zones, so that children could safely play on the streets and people could live peacefully, without excessive noise, traffic or pollution.
Building Code and Land Use had seen each other many times, but rarely spoken.  He was committed to Province and she was committed to Municipality, but he had admired her from a distance.  She was always the life of a party; a social butterfly.  Her easy manner kept her surrounded by people from all walks of life. He had often thought how nice it would be to be so well liked.  His own forceful rules had kept his social circle small. He could typically be found alone, nursing a glass of whiskey at the edge of a party. It had, of course, not escaped him that she was a beauty, but being a man of principle, he kept his eyes on his drink and only ever granted her a polite nod.
She was always aware of his presence.  She thought he was arrogant.  He didn’t seem to need anybody and least of all her.  She had to admit that she liked being needed.  What was up with this man who always seemed too busy with himself to even smile at her when she walked by?  She had resolved to not give him the time of day, but somehow she could not keep herself from peeking through her circle of admirers and glancing his way.  Her own lack of self-control made her like him even less.
It was a mutual friend that brought them together. House. He was a nice guy, simple, straightforward and honest.  Building Code was always more relaxed around him.  House’s needs were so easy to meet.  Land Use liked him, too.  He was jovial and filled with love and warmth, a real family guy.  House had asked them both to meet him at his favourite pub.  Who could say no to house?  It was a date.
The following Monday evening they met at The Rip Tide.  Building Code and Land Use politely shook hands and each ignored their own fluttering hearts.  They were principled, married people.   House ordered a round of Mojitos.  They all relaxed and house was able to open up to the two of them.  He had a problem, a big problem, and they had both unintentionally caused it, but he knew they both cared deeply about doing the right thing and he believed that if they worked together they could find a solution.
He turned first to Building Code, “Listen Buddy, before Land Use came along, good people worked from home.  It was a necessity.  Sometimes they were taking care of young children; sometimes they were taking care of elderly parents.  Often they were low-income people; young families starting out, or just folks with great ideas and not a lot of money to back them up.  I know you didn’t mean any harm, but when you told them they needed to separate their businesses from the rest of their homes with fire separation and when you told them they needed barrier free access, well, you broke them.   I’m sorry to be so blunt, Man.”
Then he turned his friendly face to Land Use, “Sugar, I know you would never hurt a fly, but I gotta be straight with you.  You done a lot of good.  So many folks love you because of all the problems you have solved, but I’m afraid you kind of threw out the baby with the bath water with some of those zoning regulations of yours.  See, putting the businesses in one area and the homes in another was brilliant, but not all businesses are created equally.   Small carpenter shops have the same impact on a neighbourhood as lawn mowers. A granny knitting sweaters who sees a few customers a week is hardly a threat to peace and quiet.  If someone wants to cut hair in their house, what’s the big deal?  People gotta live, right?
Land Use and Building code went quiet. They were both in the business of helping and somehow they had caused pain.  They agreed to work together to fix this problem. This was bad for people and bad for the economy.  Something needed to be done.  The three of them agreed to meet weekly and put their heads together to find a solution. 
They began to look forward to their Monday night Rendez- vous at The Rip Tide. One night, after a couple of drinks, Land Use turned to Building Code and said, “You know,  I used to think you were an ass hole, but you’re really a nice guy.” 
“Uh, thanks…I think.”   The three of them laughed.
These evenings were spent discussing things like occupancy, parking, fire safety, competing with commercial businesses, and supporting people.  Building Code would get all fired up and start preaching about the importance of separating occupancies, but Land Use would gently touch his wrist and remind him that these are exclusively residential zones, so they were going to have to find a way to make sure these small businesses are part of the main residential use.  He knew she was right, but how could it be done? He would lean in a little closer as they continued to exchange ideas.  House ordered another round of Mojitos.
It was a warm summer evening when they met for the sixth time.  They had all had a little too much to drink.  Building Code offered to walk Land Use Home. She accepted. They walked side by side, occasionally brushing arms. They continued their conversation, but the alcohol made them a bit more passionate than usual. Their voices were raised and the conversation became heated.  He yelled, “fire separation and barrier free access, “ she shouted,  “integrity of the residential zone. “ Suddenly she stopped, turned to face him, stared right into his eyes and said, “You can be a real jerk sometimes.”  He put his hand on the small of her back and said, “ Safety first.”  Their lips locked and they melted into a passionate kiss.  When they came up for air, he took her by the hand and said, “I know a public place.  It’s empty and I have access, barrier free access.”
He took her to the library and there, beneath the skylights, they made mad, municipal love.  When they had spent their passion, they lit each others’ cigarettes, careful to not set off the sprinkler system, and their ideas for solving the problems facing Home Based Businesses in exclusively residential zones flowed freely.
That night a great bylaw was conceived.  Together, they agreed that if the size of the allowable space used for the business was limited; if there were restrictions put on the amount of employees, parking and signage; if the businesses only generated traffic and noise levels typical to a residential zone and if these businesses used machinery equivalent to other machinery used in a residential home, then all concerns for safety and the integrity of a residential neighbourhood would be met.  They talked about how these sorts of businesses actually bring customers into towns and in turn support  the businesses in the commercial zones.  They agreed that if the home-based businesses outgrew the limits of Land Use’s rules, then it was time to grow and move to the commercial zone.  She had whispered sweet regulations in his ear and he was putty in her hands.
Building Code, who deeply felt his responsibility to control safety, was finally able to relax because Land Use had stepped in to help.  He was secure knowing that as long as Land Use’s  regulations were in place that all would be well.  That night a collective sigh could be heard from creative Industries, working parents, low income families, single parents, young families starting out, people taking care of disabled or elderly loved ones and a provincial economy.  On that hot summer night, Building Code and Land Use came together and solved a problem. They kissed each other good night, knowing full well they would never meet again.  She went back to Municipality and he returned to Province.
Nine months later, Land Use was admitted to Municipal Affairs and gave birth to a beautiful, bouncing Home Occupation Bylaw.  The little love child was checked over by municipal lawyers for birth defects and was pronounced by the Minister to be absolutely perfect.


  1. Anna, you are incorrigible! A land-use / building code bodice ripper!! With a happy ending, of course.

  2. Honestly Anna, this is unexpected and amazing.


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