ROCHESTER, NY—After years spent poring over mysterious and arcane plat sheets and deciphering long-forgotten building codes, city councilmember Mike LaMere unearthed the mysterious City Zoning Amulet Friday.
"Behold!" LaMere said, holding aloft the solid-gold amulet, which is emblazoned with the Ever-Evaluating Eye of Surr-Vey, Lord Of Demarcation, He Who Measures And Assesses. "With this sigil, the power of zoning comes. Through me, the power of zoning flows! All will behold my power, and I shall bow to no man when designating matter-of-right developments for major retail and office spaces to a maximum lot occupancy of 75 percent for residential use!"
LaMere held the glowing amulet aloft and transmuted a neighborhood of low-income apartments into a semi-wooded, single-family, residential district with an adjoining riverside park.
Though the amulet had long been dismissed as urban legend, a mythical ideal of zoning perfection handed down from city planner to city planner, LaMere became convinced that not only was it real, but that it had been used to lay out the cities of Ur, Atlantis, and Inver Grove Heights, MN.
LaMere credited the amulet with the overnight renovation of the Monroe County Public Library, and the recent redesignation of a Southern Rochester area from "commercial" to "single-family residential use for detached and semi-detached structures." Many Rochester citizens believe the amulet is responsible for the fully stocked ocean aquarium that materialized in the city center Sunday, and the gleaming new Friendly's restaurant that rose serenely over the banks of the Genesee River late Monday afternoon.
Although the Rochester City Zoning Board controls all decisions related to city planning, sources at City Hall say that, as long as LaMere's powerful zoning wizardry is performed for the good of the city, they "see no reason to deny him what seems to be his destiny."
"Two weeks ago, the biggest news in Rochester was our huge public garage sale," said William A. Johnson, Rochester's mayor. "Our city center was still a moribund tax burden with small businesses in big buildings and families moving to the suburbs in droves. Now, with a wave of his mighty amulet, Councilman LaMere can designate matter-of-right medium-density development, with limited offices for non-profit organizations, trade associations, and professionals permitted as a special exception requiring approval of the RCZA."
Despite the potential improvements to Rochester's civic landscape, some residents remain wary of LaMere's apparent bureaucratic invincibility.
"It's wonderful that someone's finally doing something to revitalize this town, even if it is someone who can commune with church gargoyles," said local baker Wendy Kittner, whose business was mystically placed on the National Register Of Historic Places last week despite being housed in a building erected in 1981. "He frightens me, and my concern is that if I defy him, I may be turned to stone."
City planning commissioner Errol Criclow, who was dismissed by LaMere at a Planning And Zoning Commission hearing last Thursday as "subhuman," said that he feared that LaMere's power would eventually corrupt him and his city. According to Criclow, during a private consultation with local community leaders, LaMere became infuriated with timid suggestions that his amulet be used to create more green spaces. In a blinding torrent of thunder and light, LaMere violently rezoned Rochester's west side with a maze of warehouses and parking garages. The act left LaMere himself dazed and shaken.
"For a minute there, he seemed his old self," said Criclow. "When he saw what he'd done, he looked remorseful. But then his hand found the amulet, and he threw back his head and laughed long and loud, like a man who has forgotten the difference between industrial and recreational—between right and wrong."
Added Criclow: "I don't think what he's doing is mere magic. I think it's darkest bureaucromancy."