Did everyone have a good Independence Day? We hope you got to commemorate the Founding Fathers’ treason in celebratory fashion. Unfortunately, not everyone got to enjoy the festivities this year. Out in the Summit of Lee, there was a bit of a donnybrook that prevented the annual fireworks celebration. Apparently that idyllic eastern suburn is the site of a blooming property rights battle of downright Montague/Capulet proportions, and the fight somehow found its way into the middle of our nation’s birthday. Follow us, if you will, into the heart of GOP country, where the developers hate regulation boards, the citizens hate the developer, and everyone hates America. How dare you cancel fireworks, socialists!
Okay, now this is a litle confusing. It seems a local developer, one Ira Roberts, wanted to develop a parcel of land some time ago. The city said they’d buy the land, then backed out. The land is part (and perhaps parcel) of something called “Raintree Lake” — a name which does nothing but prove the utter lack of creativity of developers. (“Hey, let’s just combine three random nouns of nature!”) Blah blah, fast forward a year or so, and here’s the deal: the city scheduled the annual fireworks celebration on the land, and Roberts demanded a rather unreasonable sum: $640,000. (The original asking price for the land.) The city declined, but Roberts would not stand for this; he met with triumph and disaster, as Kipling would say, and treated those two impostors the same.
Ira Roberts and his family had plopped down in the “impact zone” and wouldn’t budge — despite last-minute pleas.
Finally, with darkness nearing and the crowd growing, the Lee’s Summit fire chief showed up and ordered the show canceled.
“He was on his property … perfectly legal,” Fire Chief Keith Martin said Monday. “He did nothing wrong.”
Not everybody buys that. Roberts received phone calls from indignant fireworks fans. A few were threats, and somebody locked a chain on a gate leading to his property.
Oh, my. Now that is civil disobedience at its finest. Thoreau would be proud (if he could muster any emotion about bourgeois, conformist activities). The other side is hitting back, though. Raintree board president and awesomely named person Tony Jose says that the fiasco is Roberts’ own fault, because he “allowed the most recent purchase offer to expire.”
The cost? To the Raintree board: $5,000 in unused fireworks. To Roberts: pride. To society: some good ol’ America-lovin’.