Almost everyone who reads this newsletter knows by now that I live a “double life.” My law practice is based here in New Jersey, our country’s most densely populated state. However, I make my home and sometime other law office in a one traffic light “little town “of Bristol, Vermont, population 3,000. Further, working with long time office client David Bolger and his entities, I find myself dealing with local real estate issues all over the country mostly in more rural areas and sitting on the Board of Directors of the holding company of a bank that operates in seven branches in around what is called the Treasure Valley surrounding Boise, Idaho. These various perspectives keep my life interesting.
Most Mondays I start early, this time of year in the dark, heading to my “Vermont law office” in the back of the bookstore that Carol and I also own. When I take a break mid-morning for coffee, I usually walk down the street to the bank, frequently stopping at the post office, then to chat with the Town Manager at the Borough Hall, then to see George Vince, a fellow attorney whose office is always in Vermont, and finally across the street to visit Larry Buck of Conner & Buck, who is a contractor doing work for me. Everything is within walking distance, but it is a walk filled with friendly chats, so it usually takes a while. Lately, my last stop is a project I am working on right next store, the restoration of a 3 story 130 year old historic building. Somehow I talked 17 civic minded individuals to invest in this important restoration project which will ultimately house 5 apartments, 2 stores and 2 offices in a beautiful restored Italianate building.
Lunch on Monday’s is usually with my wife Carol, at a local establishment that falls somewhere between a pizza place and an Italian restaurant. We only have two downtown restaurants in Bristol, and the other one, The Main Street Diner, is closed on Mondays. Although phone calls, faxes and my computer hook up to the New Jersey office speed me in every direction, even on Mondays, this day is usually very much a picture of small town life. My business day always end with a Rotary dinner meeting in the basement of Howden Hall, a restored former one room school house just a short walk down the street. By eight-thirty, at least this time of the year, the scene usually shifts to Carol and I reading in front of a fire in matching wing back chairs.
Tuesday’s start even earlier than Mondays, as my commute will be long this day—four and half hours. If I leave by 6 am I am at my desk by 10:30, assuming no stops. My New Jersey office looks a little different from the one in the back of the bookstore as it sits on the third story of a modern office building at the corner of one of the state’s busiest intersections. My travels on Tuesday will also be less numerous because they all must be by car. Except for the fact that I work with great people at both places, very little is the same about my Vermont and New Jersey offices or lives. The rest of the week continues with similar schizophrenia as by its end I am almost always back in Vermont.
Why do I tell you all this? Well, first because people are always asking me about my Vermont small town life. More importantly, because I am working on several downtown projects, one in Ridgewood, my “other hometown”, one in Park Ridge, and finally the one I mentioned above in Bristol, Vermont. These projects are a bit of a departure for me, as so much of what our office works on is usually located on the highways. As I work on these downtown projects I am becoming increasingly aware that new environmental frontier may not be obscure animal endangered species but the preservation of human scale environments for the ultimate endangered species—people.
I’ll stop here, but invite you to participate as I begin a series that will continue in future issues of Legal Update exploring land use planning “for people.” In an age which is becoming increasingly dominated by Internet retailing, where big box retailers are the latest fad and regional malls are remaking themselves yet again, what is it that makes us feel good about the places where we live, work and shop. In the next issue I will discuss an exciting new book with not so exciting title Real Solutions…Ecologically Based Municipal Land Use Planning by William B. Honachefsky. Please feel free to write or e-mail me (twells@WJLplaw.com) with your comments on this topic.