Pretty exhausting day, probably because I haven't been in a classroom for quite a while. Four more days, if I make it that far. But in fact, it was a useful experience. I was struck half-way through the day that the Birch Lane McLaughlins might have been better served by asking Sam Bridge to join them in mediation. Here in deep-pocket Greenwich, residents tend to reach for their cellphone and speed dial their lawyer at the first hint of disturbance or displeasure, but mediation might have saved both parties tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and, most important, left the McLaughlins with control over their grievance. Mediation is voluntary, and the parties can either reach a satisfactory agreement or not, but they decide the outcome, not a third party, be it a P&Z appeals board, arbitrator, or judge.
I've had very successful outcomes mediating cases, but most lawyers hate it (see above, re: saving tens of thousands in legal fees). My guess is that the parties in the nursery case could have crafted a settlement that satisfied both sides' concerns, rather than risk all on the decision of a panel of people with no stake in the outcome.
In any event, back for more tomorrow.