Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Trees and Views and other Disputes

Trees and Views are often points of contention in Marin County and other Bay Area towns and Cities. People love their trees and their views. Neighbors go to war against neighbors in order to maintain one or the other.

Often the casualties of these wars are the trees. They lie forlorn on the ground like dead soldiers, or are spirited away in the night like prisoners of war. Neighbors have been known to chop, spike, poison and slowly hack away at their neighbors trees, as they poke their heads up into the views.

Most valued are Bay vistas, but distant hills, valleys and even other trees are often the views in contention.

In other cases, neighbors let their raggedy cypress or leggy bamboo grow over, under and through their neighbor's fences and hedges, as if to thumb a leafy nose at the neighbor's concerns.
Many towns have enacted ordinances that address these issues. Protecting Heritage trees and setting forth procedures for squabbling neighbors to settle their differences without resorting to the axe or the courtroom. Often these efforts are in vain. Many times I have been called out after the damage is done. The trees are in pieces, the neighbors not speaking. What is the recourse but to sue the miscreants?

Or a feud that may have begun over a barking dog, or an overturned garbage can has turned into a full blown battle Royal. Bamboo spite fences soar high into the air, blocking sunlight from the neighbors. Stealthy actions take place in the wee hours of the morning; fences themselves, inanimate objects that they are, begin to inch along the ground, metal survey stakes that have been embedded in hard earth for decades vanish overnight. Giant trees fall like match sticks. "Prove it," growl the neighbors to one another from across the conference tables of their lawyers. Or the lawyers of their insurance companies. Where are the mediators, the peacemakers? Alas, sad but true, these are the kinds of cases that should settle through mediation and most often do not.

Do you have tree, view or property dispute issues you'd like to discuss on this Blog? Send them to me as a comment, and we'll post the best.