Urban Planning

A comedic short-story parody of the urban planning process, which engineers will encounter frequently. : urbanplanning

A gentleman I know finally retired from his career as a civil engineer, in which he would frequently come into contact with municipal authority figures from various zoning boards and other urban planning entities. He found he needed to reclaim his sanity by writing a parody of the urban planning process and the colorful municipal authority figures he encountered over his career. Thus, he has written a short piece of comedy known as God versus HELL, which I will now share with you.


God versus HELL.


In the beginning God created heaven and earth. He was immediately issued a cease and desist/show cause order by the Heavenly Environmental Liaison League (HELL), an agency comprised of representatives of the various environmental groups dedicated to keeping the universe pollution-free.

Asked what He would do with this dark void, God said He planned to create light in the heavens. Immediately the representative of the Universal Air Pollution Bureau asked how the light would be made. God explained that the light would come from a glowing ball of gases. The representative requested that any approvals be conditioned as follows: (1) there would be no smoke or particulate pollution; and (2) a separate burning permit would be required. A member of the Dark Sky Coalition also requested that there be a period of darkness for viewing the stars. God saw this would conserve energy and said He would call the light “day” and the darkness “night.” HELL indicated that they had no knowledge of these terms and stipulated that they be clearly defined. HELL then granted a temporary permit for the heavenly part and continued the hearing on the earthly part until all water and land management permits had been applied for.

On the third day God caused the dry land to bring forth grass and herbs. HELL was outraged and immediately filed for a permanent injunction requesting all work be stopped until God submitted the necessary permit applications and environmental impact statements. At the hearing God disputed the need for permits, citing His omniscience and benevolence. HELL’s attorney stipulated to these facts but stated that nevertheless, they wished to avoid the necessity of future floods or locust plagues. God was also asked if He had any more plans and He responded that He had some ideas for the next few days. The attorney for HELL responded that it would take a year to review the permit applications, six months of public hearings and a yearlong comment period before any approvals could be granted.

On the fifth day God created fishes for the waters and fowl to fly above. The Fisheries Board filed for intervenor status, requesting data on the number and species of fish. Trout Unlimited attached a supporting brief requesting that they be involved on the placement of rocks and other barriers in the streams to ensure the trout had adequate resting and spawning areas. The Universal Audubon Society requested a pesticide management plan to protect the eagles, if any were created.

And God said, “Let earth bring forth the living creatures, cattle and creeping things.” The Universal Wildlife Federation asked who would manage all these living things and ensure they were fed. God said He was instituting a food chain whereby animals lower on the chain would be eaten by those higher on the chain. HELL was skeptical and requested additional documentation, including a brief from PETA on whether this would meet the prevailing cruelty standards and a permit from the Fisheries and Game Commission.

On the sixth day God created man and woman and said, “Be fruitful and multiply.” The Heavenly Environmental Defense Fund asked what they would eat and God responded, “I have given them a garden, that they may eat of the fruits and vegetables.” As to where they would live, God said that the climate in the garden would require minimal shelter, probably only grass huts. HELL granted provisional status, as long as no permanent structures were built. The Universal Resources Defense Council stipulated that this was acceptable with regard to temporary structures, but before any permanent structures were built, God needed to create Zoning to ensure proper separation and Building Codes to ensure structural integrity.

As to the question of the man and woman’s bodily wastes, God indicated that they would eliminate them on the ground, the same as the animals. A representative of the Heavenly Department of Environmental Protection (HDEP) stated that non-point sources would be the greatest pollution threat to the streams and rivers. This plan could only be approved if God’s consultants filed for a stormwater discharge permit, which must include a stormwater management plan. God said the heck with it, I’ll just create a treatment plant, but HDEP said that would require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, with plans and specifications stamped by a Professional Engineer (PE). Since HDEP staff was too busy creating regulations, the permit would have to be reviewed by another PE, at God’s cost.

How will these humans disperse themselves once they multiply? God said He had provided resources to allow them to develop roads and cars someday. He was advised of the need for a traffic study addressing road capacity and an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) addressing impacts on all endangered species. God explained that there were no endangered species. HELL asked what if man discovers fire and decides that prime rib is preferable to vegetables? God explained that these people would develop cardiovascular disease and die sooner, thus sustaining the balance of nature.

As the hearing was concluding, the Universal Flying Object (UFO) committee brought up the subject of off-planet travel. God said, “I have given them the resources to reach the Moon.” HELL then revoked His temporary permit for the heavenly portion of the project until He could address the effects on the inhabitants of other planets, interstellar aircraft collisions, and space junk accumulating around the Earth. God said, “I just thought of a name for the place I’m going to send all the sinners.”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to mock any religion or supreme being.

Dennis Blanchette is a retired civil engineer and travel writer.

His website:


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