Saturday, June 19, 2004

The Outer Banks Sentinel: Archaeologists plan search for lost Roanoke Settlement

This goes on my cool list. I've wondered about the lost Roanoke colony since I first heard about it in the sixth grade.

The search for the settlement site of Sir Walter Raleigh's Roanoke colonies of the 1580's, including the mysterious "Lost Colony," will resume later this year if plans now being made by archaeologists and historians are realized.

Perhaps you recall this as well. The colonists landed at Roanoke Island in 1587, founded the Cittie of Raleigh, and in 1590, when ships returned, they found the place deserted and the word "Croatoan" carved into a tree. Nobody has ever been able to figure out what happened to them. X-files material, but real.
Here's the story in more detail--From a cool site called "Packet."

Friday, June 18, 2004 | Public must keep clear of Madonna (June 19, 2004)
MADONNA has won her bid to stop walkers from traipsing over large parts of her £9 million ($24 million) country estate in England.

The singer's lawyers had argued before a public inquiry that a demand from the Countryside Agency to let ramblers onto areas regarded as open countryside would bring strangers close to her home at Ashcombe House, compromising both her privacy and her security.

The inquiry ruled today that the public had no right of access to 15 of 17 contested segments of land on the 548-hectare estate on the border of Wiltshire and Dorset.

But the Countryside Agency claimed a partial victory, saying the two parcels of land where walkers must be allowed accounted for 54 hectares of the 142 hectares under dispute.

"Almost half of the land contested at the public inquiry has been classed as open count," the agency said.

Where to begin? But isn't her name Esther or Divinity or Abstinthe or something now? Anyway, now that she has clearly established her right to keep the stinky public off her land, what does she think we should do about Iraq? I, for one, don't feel comfortable voting until she tells me what to do. Do you?
Many back dog owner as condo chief quits
A battle over an elderly woman's Chihuahua has roused legions of supporters for the widow and forced the resignation of a condominium board president who fears for his safety after enforcing a no-pets rule. The uproar comes after 85-year-old Bernadette Casale was ordered to give up her pooch, Cha Cha. As news of her plight spread, scores of supporters have inundated the Bridgeview condominium in suburban Delray Beach with angry phone calls and e-mails. "It's getting pretty scary," Casale said. So scary that board president Chris Termini has resigned after serving 12 years on the board. Termini declined to comment Thursday to avoid stirring more controversy. "One letter said to the effect, 'If Ms. Casale loses her dog, my face will be the last face you see,' " said Joe Conigliaro, board vice president. Conigliaro said exempting Cha Cha would be unfair to other residents who must follow the no-pets rule, which was first implemented about a decade ago after a community vote.

One neighbor has already announced that if Ms. Casale gets to keep her dog, "I'm going out tomorrow and buying me one." This whole episode would make sense if it were on The Sopranos, but it's real life.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004 Officials order woman living in two-room home to give up 130 pets

By The Associated Press
(6/15/04 - HOUSTON) — A Liberty County woman found with more than 130 animals in her two-room house and on her half-acre lot has been ordered to surrender the pets to an animal rights organization. Patsy Boucher, 58, lived on her property with 121 dogs, eight birds, a cat and several pigs and guinea pigs. A justice of the peace told her to turn over the animals because of concerns for their well-being.

See what happens when you live in a neighborhood without an HOA? On the other hand, Ms. Boucher blames the County for this situation because she says they don't have an animal shelter. I guess you could call this a form of privatization after all...

Monday, June 14, 2004

Arizona Capitol Times: George Starapoli assesses the legislative accomplishments of this session
George is the honcho of Citizens Against Private Government, and was heavily involved in the AZ legislative goings-on this year, and moderator of the HOAs group on Yahoo. Here's his opinion on the various things that did and did not pass:

Legislature Responds With HOA Reforms – Or Did It?

There were some 16 homeowner association “reform” bills submitted in this year’s legislative session after only two last year and one two years before. Many, including some advocates, are shouting “Fantastic! Arizona has seen the light.”

Is this a step forward?

The answer is yes. Progress has been made because the Legislature realized that it could no longer ignore advocates’ demands for reform after years of industry-backed bills that only purported to aid homeowners.

But, what was asked of the legislators? More association/industry-favored bills or HOA reform bills? What was the mix, or quality, of these bills? Were only good bills passed and harmful bills killed? Of the 16 bills, nine were passed (56 per cent). Was that good or bad?

Some examples of bad bills:

• H2402 was watered down to permit the loss of homestead exemption and draconian foreclosure methods.

• H2377 was a “due process” bill that would have required a justice of the peace’s ruling on the legitimacy of HOA violations.

• H2381 allows the director to vote after declaring a conflict his interest.

Some examples of better bills:

• S1137 did away with the need for a quorum of homeowners to sue the board.

• S1125 requires registration of HOAs.

• H2380 requires “truth in home buying” with written disclosure to the buyer.

The main failing with most of these bills remains the lack of enforcement by rogue boards who, today, ignore the laws, and we believe will continue to ignore the laws because there is no “motivation” in terms of penalties.

In general, advocates are pleased with the results of this year’s legislative session. After three years of failing to enact any HOA reform legislation we now have the beginnings of reform activity.

Still, many feel that more needs to be done to bring justice and the equal protection of the laws to homeowners living in HOAs.

We will be back next year, and the next year until there is justice and the equal treatment of homeowners living in HOAs.

(by George K. Staropoli, Citizens Against Private Government, HOAs Scottsdale)

San Bernardino County Sun: Rialto watches condo cleanup--Decaying complexes might be targeted for potential legal action
By BRAD A. GREENBERG, Staff Writer

RIALTO - The city has 12 troubled multiple-family residences, where walls crumble, ceilings sag, trash piles up and safety wanes. A run-down Eucalyptus Avenue condo complex is being used as a testing ground by city housing officials for a more authoritative method of achieving building rehabilitation. If Foothill Terrace continues to improve, the city might take legal action on some of the other troubled complexes, officials said.
"It looks like a third-world country,' said John Walton, a building inspector with Rialto's Economic Redevelopment Agency.
People keep asking me for specifics when I say that there is an increasing risk of many more failed HOAs in the near future. Here's one example-12 complexes in one city.

Yahoo! News - Gasoline Price Drops Below $2 a Gallon
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The average price U.S. drivers pay for gasoline dropped below $2 a gallon for the first time in five weeks, with costs in some cities falling more than 10 cents, the government said on Monday. The national price for regular unleaded gasoline fell 4.9 cents over the last week to $1.985 a gallon, according to a weekly survey of gasoline stations by the Energy Information Administration

Still more good news.
Yahoo! News - Mortgage Delinquencies Lowest in 4 Years
By Richard Leong

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. mortgage delinquencies slipped in the first quarter of 2004 to their lowest level in nearly four years, helped by a robust housing market and improving job conditions, a U.S. mortgage industry group said on Monday. The Mortgage Bankers Association said its measure of outstanding mortgages that were delinquent fell to 4.33 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis for the first quarter from 4.49 percent in the fourth quarter and 4.85 percent a year ago. The first-quarter delinquency reading is lowest since 4.11 percent for the second quarter 2000, according to a spokesman for the group.

There's some good news. Now how will Kerry, et al., spin this into the worst economy since Herbert Hoover?

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Yahoo! News - Holy Condominiums, Batman!

Churches Selling As Luxury Condominiums
By DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press Writer

BOSTON - When St. Peter and Paul's Church was sold to a developer, there was a lot of resistance in South Boston. Not only was the beloved church closing, it was being turned into something that was an anathema to the working-class neighborhood: luxury condominiums.
As the Boston Archdiocese prepares to put 60 churches up for sale, developers and real estate brokers predict they will be scooped up and converted into condos because the market is hot for trendy, distinctive real estate.

This is a fascinating story. It seems that all the publicity about priestly dalliances with young parishioners has cut into church attendance and funds, which has led to church closures. What to do with empty churches? Sell them to developers. This should lead to some interesting community dynamics. The area residents are used to thinking of the place as their church. The yuppies who now live there think of it as, let's say hypothetically, Priestly Acres, with the coolest hot tub in the neighborhood. Hard to reconcile those two perceptions, don't you think?