The old saying “where did the time go” still holds true! It’s been about a year since I posted my Spiteful Trees article and it’s time to post more articles that, I hope, will entertain and enlighten. Lately I have been involved with selling the office building where my law practice was located and moving my office to my home. The preparation for the move went fairly well, especially shredding almost 60 bankers boxes of records, and the contents of my office are now safely located at my home…in the office, the garage and the cellar! The planning involved too much on the front end of the move and too little on the back end. So a little advice: if planning a major project of any kind include all phases of the project, ie. the beginning, the middle and the end. Sounds basic I know, but I should have been all up and running now and that is not the case. As I think Abe Lincoln (or someone) once said: “If I have 6 hours to cut down a tree I am going to spend 4 hours sharpening the axe.”
After a number of years practicing law, a recent case decided by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court covers an issue I have never encountered before and that is Maine’s spite fence statute, Title 17 M.R.S. Section 2801. That law provides that “any fence or other structure in the nature of a fence, unnecessarily exceeding 6 feet in height, maliciously kept and maintained for the purpose of annoying the owners or occupants of adjoining property, shall be deemed a private nuisance.”
In this particular case (Peters v. O’Leary, 2011 ME 106) neighbors were not getting along very well and one planted 74 trees along their common boundary line in an effort to block the other’s scenic ocean views. So some trees had to go the court said and justice prevailed. In opinions the court cites earlier cases to support its position and here there’s an indication how rare this issue comes up as the earlier cases cited are dated 1908, 1898 and 1889.
Now don’t go running out and suing your neighbor over this issue right away, as one Justice on the court also said that the opinion should not be read to suggest that a privacy barrier of trees and vegetation can always be challenged as a spite fence. Ditto with trees that have grown naturally over a long period of time and eventually obstruct a neighbor’s view.
They say fences make good neighbors, but not all the time.
Welcome to my first post. My goal is to post information that will help you cope with situations you encounter on a daily basis, whether of a personal or business nature. But bear with me, this is all new!