We've all had them, no doubt some of us are them. I well recall Mrs. Thacker who lived at the end of my street when I was growing up in the West End of Richmond, Va. Mrs.Thacker was, to put it bluntly, grotesque, a withered, old, neighborhood scold who systematically pilfered ours and other neighbor's garbage desperately seeking prurient material such as...gasp... Playboy Magazine, the mere existence of which she could then use to justify her predisposition to be scandalized by her obviously morally degenerate neighbors. Deeply reminiscent in her demeanor and raison d'etre to Mrs. Gulch/The Wicked Witch of The West, Mrs. Thacker appeared to live no life to speak of, except one where she could, with a sort of grimly lunatic determination, project onto we poor neighbors all manner of awfulness. Her reward for her warm and winning presence was to one day have all the neighborhood's children present her with a chocolate cake laced with ex-lax.
Lamentably, I have, of late, been reminded of the aforementioned meddlesome monster by some of my present day neighbors who have, themselves, fatally meddled in my and my wife's plans to build an addition at the back of our very small home. In fact, our home is the smallest on the street by a wide margin and sits on a very peculiarly shaped lot, a concave plot that vanishes to a two foot wide point some fifty feet or so from the back of the house. And while it was absolutely the case that we required a variance to build, it was also equally the case that had our abutting neighbors not objected as they did, the zoning board would have granted us the needed variance. The objections from all but one source were specious, claims of loss of sunlight and view were systematically shown to be without merit by me and the architect, but as we were dealing with a wholly unreasonable group on a holy mission to save the neighborhood from certain ruin, (this despite the fact that the project was deemed an aesthetic improvement on the existing house and a boon to the neighborhood by the historical commission) the zoning board, in fear of a lawsuit, refused our petition. I know this to be an accurate account because I was told this by a city employee who works with the zoning board.
Having lived in the neighborhood for many years, I knew several of my closest neighbors to be less than friendly, at times haughty, and in the case of one, a bit of a bully and busy body. However, I did not realize the degree of pettiness and blatant hypocrisy (one abutter, who has made several external improvements to her own home, actually tried to block the project on the basis of construction noise) that would emerge in response to our attempt to put on an addition. I imagine there are likely several morals to this story, one of which must be, when contemplating a building project that requires historical commission and/or zoning board approval, know they neighbors and know them well.