I only thought I was in hell before

by Ogi Overman

Just when you think it can’t get any worse’… it does. I thought we’d hit rock bottom, only to find that the bottom extends several floors below ground level. Right now we’re peering into the abyss, deciding whether or not to jump.

Normally the most depressing item on this page is that neo-Nazi hottie to my (far) right, but today she’ll have to play second fiddle to me. If you’re looking for something even remotely uplifting, satirical, funny, entertaining, provocative or informative, please look elsewhere in this, easily the Triad’s finest free weekly. No, this column is nothing but sad. If you’re tired of my dumping my personal problems on you in this space, go ahead and pull a Bob Seeger and turn the page. But if you care to wallow in my misery with me, you’re in the right place.

Janet and I thought we were in the right place when we bought our house exactly five years ago. It was the one you dream about, the one that has everything on your wish list and then some. It took us literally five minutes after seeing it to tell our Realtor to get the wheels in motion to buy it. The day we closed on it, I can honestly say, was one of the happiest days of my life, and once we got moved in I quickly realized that I never wanted to move again. This was where we’d stake our claim, this land originally settled by the New Garden Friends, the place where we would live out our remaining days.

The symmetry was perfect, in that it is very likely that those 18th-century Quakers who cherished this land were some of my ancestors. (If you ever get the chance to wander through the cemetery across from Guilford College, you’ll see quite a few headstones with the word Overman on them.) It is even probable that some of those majestic oaks and maples and magnolias that shade our property were planted by those same Quakers.

Actually, the word shade should be in past tense, as most of them are now gone and the rest soon will be. The ones on our property will be all that’s left of this once-pristine acreage that my next-door neighbor used to call ‘“a little slice of Heaven.’” The sense of dread we’ve lived with for the past year has now been replaced with an emotion I haven’t felt since my parents died. I’m not sure I can even describe it, but it’s somewhere past hopelessness, despair, despondency and grief but not quite to the point of suicidal. It’s taken the concept of powerlessness to a completely new level.

Oh, we’ll continue to fight the good fight, just as we fought the two condo developments in our back yard, the first of which is now being framed in and should be ready for occupancy in a few months. But just as we lost those two battles (actually we won the first one at the Zoning Commission level, but the developer appealed it to the City Council and won ‘— just like they always do), so shall we lose this one. Because, like I said, in this town and this county developers always win, they never lose. Ever. They may lose a battle here and there, but their lawyers come back with a slightly revised plan that looks better on paper and ultimately win the war. Every single time.

Which is why our sense of dread has now morphed into agony. Now it’s real. No tree plantings, no fencing, no buffer can obscure the two-story unit that sets three feet from the property line and towers above our home. The swimming pool that used to serve as both our summer vacation since I blew our life savings on an ill-fated venture called the Greater Greensboro Observer and her only form of exercise because multiple sclerosis has robbed her of the last bit of mobility, is now in full view of every new condo owner who moves in. A city-mandated six-foot height restriction on privacy fences and the fact that even the fastest-growing cedar or cypress would offer little or no relief make me doubt I’ll even fill up the pool this summer.

So, it was with that backdrop that we received a letter from the city planning department and a development company on the same day last week. I didn’t even need to open them, but once I did all I needed to see was the phrase every homeowner dreads: ‘“Notice of Public Hearing.’” Without going into the grisly details (I’ll get into that next week), the long and short of it is that the developers are no longer content to rezone our side of New Garden from single-family residential to multi-family; they’ve seized the opening that the first condo development wrought and are shooting for Limited Business. Now their plan is to destroy the inner neighborhood where we live ‘— New Garden Road is already shot to hell ‘— and build a Walgreen’s directly across from us and a bank immediately beside us.

And if you think having majestic hardwoods, a duck pond and good neighbors on three sides of you replaced by a drug store, a bank and two condo communities is as bad as it gets, tune in next week.

If there is a next week.

Ogi can be reached at, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on ‘“The Dusty Dunn Show’” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on ‘“Triad Today’” Friday at 6:30 a.m. on ABC45 and Sunday at 10 p.m. on UPN48.