It’s late September and I am on my way home. “The people from the city are coming,” Ken, our builder, told me on the phone. “I think you should be there.” Something about needing more plants in the construction mitigation plan before they would sign off. The mitigation planner, hired by Ken, had plants delivered that morning. Ken’s crew had been planting them all day at the planner’s direction.
A light rain had begun to fall as I picked my way through salal and scrub growth to the back of the house. I could see Ken talking with a man and a woman clad in snappy City-logo-ed Helly Hansen jackets. Another woman wandered through the trees a ways off, making notes on a clipboard. Ken made the introductions. I’ll make the man Sam and the woman Sammi. “The fence marks where the wetland buffer zone begins,” Sammi told me. “We have signs on it that tell you the area beyond the fence is sensitive and needs to be cared for gently.” “We aren’t concerned with the house side of the fence. You have free and full use of that,” said Sam. The fence is five and one half feet from the exterior wall of the home. I asked what I could do on the other side of the fence. “We recognize that it is private property. You do have reasonable use, despite the sensitive nature of the area.” They explained that they ‘didn’t want to see landscaping, or a whole bunch of paths.’ I could put a chair out, so long as I brought it back in. I made a joke about a sport court and stadium lighting; you could practically hear it falling hard to the damp ground. I was trying to be nice, making an effort at being friendly…dare I say, reasonable. “Since you recognize that it is private property, how would you define reasonable use?” They looked at one another. Sam paused for a moment with mouth open. “Walking on it, for certain. And looking at it.” Off behind me, the mitigation planner tromped through the undergrowth, scribbling away.