I met Charlie LaRue this week. I never knew Charlie. All I knew about him was he owns an awful lot of property in Highlands, and a lot of that is on Bay Avenue. I know he owns a slightly less than a million dollar house he has for sale on 2nd Street and he became a realtor he told me, so he could sell this house on 2nd Street.
But meeting Charlie LaRue made me wonder a little bit. I know he won’t mind my sharing my thoughts because Charlie thanked me for all the publicity I’m giving him. Good or bad, he said, publicity is good. He’s right, and smart to know it.
I met Charlie LaRue when I was at the Girls Café…one of Highlands’ great cafes!...with friends and he was sitting at the counter. Hearing him mention my name to other guests in the Café is what caught my attention.
I turned to hear more and was face to face with Charlie LaRue.
I must say, my first impression is he's charming, middle-aged, rather good looking, has a great sense of humor and is a great conversationalist, enough so that he distracted me from having breakfast with my very good, and very patient friends.
But I wonder, with all these fine characteristics, if Charlie is first and foremost, a very tough businessman.
I know he told me that his roots are in Highlands and he told me his grandma's here so they've been here for a hundred years. Whether he grew up here of someplace else and just now is coming home or whether he did grow up here and went to Henry Hudson and is one of the good old boys that really loves Highlands, I don’t know. I didn’t ask, but he wasn’t bragging about the Admirals, the Caseys or the Seraphs.
What I did ask was, if you love Highlands so much, Charlie, why do you want to change it? “This could look like Provincetown,” he said. Yeah. And it could look like London or Paris or South Orange, New Jersey, if you made enough changes. But it isn’t any of those places. It’s Highlands. The Highlands where you say you have roots, the Highlands you say you love.
I agreed it’s wonderful for those people who want to redevelop Bay Avenue, it's wonderful for those people who are scooping up properties so that they can change the face of Highlands if this is what they really want to do. But nothing is being done about the problem Highlands has had longer than there have been LaRues or Smiths or Hartsgroves here.
How will all these plans solve the only real problem Highlands has. And do you know what his answer was? Charlie's answer to that was, and I do believe I detected a smirk, Hey if you live near water you got to expect some flooding. Really Charlie? Really? Is that the answer for all the people who simply love living here and maybe could do with a little help with flooding.
I don’t know anything about Charlie’s background, his engineering expertise, or his knowledge of geography., So I didn’t even mention The Netherlands and how they deal with being below the water line.
I asked Charlie how he thinks people who don’t want to sell to change the face of Bay Ave. feel about a half dozen or so folks buying so many properties. “We’re making it better for everybody, he said, the values of their homes will increase. They’ll have better equity.
OK, so what happens to the family who’s been here, raised their kids, paid their mortgage, and just want to live in the old homestead? I believe he just shrugged.
What about the person who wants to stay in a house, but a builder comes in and buys up the land on both sides of him, making his house look like a doll house between two huge buildings, blocking out the sun in the morning and making it difficult to see the stars at night? Hey, they could sell, he said. That’s business.
You’re right, Charlie, it’s business. It isn’t Highlands, it isn’t because you love the town, it isn’t because your family has roots here. It’s simply business.
I know you told me that even though you’re selling that Second St. house, you’re not selling any of the Bay Avenue properties you plan on big building on. So I’m asking you to do me a favor.
Wait a bit. Drive up to Atlantic Highlands, another great town where lots of people have very deep roots. Look at how all those new apartments have changed the look of the town. You won’t be able to miss the newest construction, the tall, very tall apartment complex next to Mike’s Deli, the one that will block out a view of the entire town to anyone driving in. Atlantic Highlands gave approval for all that construction, even without making them all provide parking for all the additional cars it will bring to town. Now the people are getting worried. They are seeing their town change. And they don’t like the change.
Let’s not change Bay Avenue right yet, Charlie. Let’s work together and make the businesses there more successful. Let’s support the local shops, the restaurants, the bars, Let’s enjoy the small parks, and continue to feel safe walking down the street at 10 or 11 at night.
And Charley? I’ve never been to Provincetown. You apparently have. And you love it. I’ll bet they could use a good real estate salesman there. They might even have some property for sale.