The Random House Dictionary, Unabridged Edition, defines the word selfish as, “devoted to or caring only for oneself … regardless of others.” There are some actions fitting this definition which may be defensible; when fleeing a burning building, perhaps you don’t have to pause to hold open a door for others. Some other acts, while admittedly rude, may be excused, such as cutting in front of others in a line. But recently, behavior was revealed that is so outrageously selfish that it qualifies for having a photograph included in the margin of the dictionary near the definition of the word.
Imagine if you will, a City which has a significant shortfall of public park land. More than forty-five thousand residents are crowded into an inadequate amount of open space. Ten-year-old children play soccer games starting at 10 p.m. because availability of athletic field time is so tight. So, the City, after much urging from the public, at great expense, and to much fanfare purchases a large chunk of land to build a grand new park, one which will be a gateway to the City for all to see and enjoy. It will actually cross the City line and complement the adjacent town’s land being devoted to parkland. There is an excited buzz in anticipation as the public discusses all the direly needed amenities, such as ballfields, toddler play areas, dog runs, kayak launches and handball courts.
But wait. There is a fly in the ointment. What if the City, in assembling the seven-plus acres of contiguous land for its future park, fails to acquire a single 2,000 square foot piece of that puzzle? The parcel, however, was zoned to allow recreational use, which was a compatible use with the future public park.
What happened next is incredible. What kind of person would, after the parkland is acquired and plans are under way, go out of his way and buy the overlooked sliver of land in the midst of the park? And who would then seek and obtain multiple variances to change, among other things, the allowable height to four-stories, reduce the setbacks from adjacent property lines to zero, and change the use from a compatible one to an incompatible, residential use for his own home? Who could put themselves ahead of the entire community, potentially spoiling what is clearly the only parcel in the future park big enough to support a regulation-sized field? What hubris. How in the world could someone be so – the definition of selfish comes to mind.
The huge fly in the ointment is a 7,500 square-foot, four-story, single-family home, one which may not be close to big enough to contain some egos. So in the future, when our park is built out and you are trying to enjoy it, feel free to lean over the fence and click a photo of the resident during his private bar-b-que in our park – for inclusion in the dictionary’s margin.