By R.E. Blake Evans. Next time you start to feel sorry for yourself over dragged-out permitting processes, draconian zoning laws, or the deplorable state of the labor pool, thank your lucky stars you don't have to deal with these troubles.
Last summer following six consecutive days of fatal alligator attacks, the Florida Game Commission reported that drought and residential population increases were driving gator-to-human confrontations to their highest levels ever. "Home construction has spread and has forced the animals to search for new watering holes," says Tim Williams, an alligator expert at Gatorland, a tourist attraction in Orlando. Statewide wildfires have aggravated conditions, driving the reptiles into residential lakes.
At Arvida's Weston development near Ft. Lauderdale, gators are a common site. In July, a mangled arm was found in a canal, and an empty-nester in Land O'Lakes near Tampa watched in horror as a 9-foot-long alligator dragged his wife underwater. Meanwhile, in Winter Haven a two-year-old girl was eaten by a 6-foot alligator in her community's lake, and the chewed up remains of a 70-year-old retiree were found floating in a Venice pond, with a suspected 8-foot alligator circling nearby.
"It is not good press for enticing relocating buyers," says Cliff Peeno, curator at Sawgrass Recreational Park near Weston. "There is going to be trouble."
Arvida's Weston community is home to 50,000 residents who live on the edge of the Everglades. Many homes are just 40 feet from gator waters.
An unprecedented amount of scary press hit over the dramatic mud runoffs and ensuing temporary shut down of The Crosby Estate in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., last winter. "There was panic," says Joe Maleko, a local resident. "I heard one child say, 'Mom the mountains are melting!'" Robert Copper, the county's officer for land use, called the mudslides "the worst he had ever encountered."
The county sued developer Starwood for not protecting watersheds and the San Dieguito River. In court Starwood agreed to pay nearly $60,000 in penalties before construction could continue.
"The public was the catalyst for the lawsuit. They were scared. The scale at which all this happened did not make sense," Copper says.
Ghosts in the attic
Washington can be a scary place--for politicians and builders. Capitol Hill jokes about a "demon cat" haunting Congress and President Lincoln roaming the Willard Hotel. An anonymous source working for a home builder tells a ghost story for builders. He heard colorful stories about ghosts in old buildings but thought nothing of them. "That was until our partners took a tour," the source says. His supervisor told him how he felt eerie cold spots and how he heard strange voices and odd sounds that he couldn't describe. "I asked him if there was a ghost, and he said 'There is a quorum of them.' That was it. We stopped [the project]," our source says.
Also in D.C., The Chastleton is said to be haunted. The Chastleton is a successful multifamily rental, but residents tell of ghosts and a horrifying female voice that repeatedly cries for help at night. The voice is said to be of a 1920s-era woman who was killed by a jealous husband who mistook her and her boyfriend for his wife and her lover.
"No one likes buying ghosts with their new home," says Bill Vann a resident of the gothic building. Vann says that residents treat the ghosts with a sense of fun. "But don't ever expect the building to go condo."