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BANANArama

A virtue of the new visitors center under the lawn at the national capitol isn't its cost-over budget by a factor of about 10 - or its interior architectural design - blasted by all those sophisticated critics who never personally designed or built anything, but its most basic design fact: it's under the lawn.

Over it are growing the grass and trees (indeed, some of the same trees which were there before the bulldozers arrived and were replanted after the construction was completed) typically invoked by BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) activists seeking to de-rail the latest building permit application by some hapless private-sector builder.

Putting new construction underground is not only technically feasible - the subway system under Holland's below-sea-level Amsterdam proved that decades ago - but esthetically attractive to those who'd rather see grass and trees than brick and stone.

If Vermont's movers and shakers hadn't recently shed their willingness to look beyond state boundaries for attractive solutions to various problems as they once did (see last week's column) they might look at underground construction as the resolution for the seemingly intractable in-State development confrontation: the need for new construction to house (taxable) jobs and commerce versus the desire to create a theme-park landscape with meadows, forest, 12-cow barns and wooden silos, as lovingly depicted in most issues of Vermont Life magazine, or, in the absence of that, to protect all existing grass and trees from any sort of replacement by buildings or pavements (see last week's column) unless it's a governmental sponsored or supported project.

There's a chance that even a despised big-box store permit applicant might get his approval if he'd design his building so it couldn't be seen, except for the front entrance - just like that new ultimate-government-construction example, the Federal Visitors' Center. To the extent that putting grass and trees on the roof now qualifies zoners and architects to claim credit for a "green" design, an underground Home Depot or McDonald's might well be acceptable to all the usual suspects, objection-wise; after all, the Volvo's and Audi's of the usual objectors are quite frequently seen, parked as discreetly and unobtrusively as possible, in the parking lots of those entities at above-ground locations.

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