Guest column

Jim Tynen: Complicated appearance rules aren’t good for anyone

September 9, 2013 

In Cary, buildings must be kept in tiptop shape.

Except, apparently, when they look worn out.

Dick and Jean Ladd own the downtown building that contains the Kitchen & Bath Galleries store. Its brick exterior is well-maintained but very ordinary looking. Painting it an understated tan color must have sounded like a good idea – just the kind of thing to brighten downtown.

Whoa, we’re talking about Cary!

The paint job was only partly done when a municipal worker threatened to fine the Ladds for violating a town regulation demanding that “the inherent color of brick, concrete, and stone be left in their natural state to weather over time.”

What style is that? “Early Detroit?” “Contemporary Cleveland?”

The Ladds battled the ruling. Now the case – and the paint job – are in limbo.

Here’s the core problem with this mess: If we don’t know what the law is, we are at the mercy of our rulers; they can play a game of “Gotcha!” by pulling out the ordinance book and hitting us over the head with it.

This is just one more incident showing Cary has so many obscure regulations that even conscientious owners can’t keep up with them.

Moreover, this regulation runs totally contrary to common sense. With all Cary’s fussy rules, you’d assume that sprucing up the building would win a prize.

But nope.

So I don’t blame the Ladds if they never imagined the town could pass and enforce such a bizarre regulation.

Obscure, complex or nonsensical rules are unfair from the get-go. Cary’s maze of rules transforms us residents into serfs who must go hat in hand to our masters in Town Hall to find out what the laws are and beg for permission to do ordinary things, such as paint our own buildings.

The council is considering judging all painting of brick buildings on a case-by-case basis.

Oh, just what Cary needs: more legal minutia.

Painting your building should be your decision. After all, it’s really true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder – not the bureaucrat.

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