South-Western Legal Studies in Business

High Trees Are Nuisance That Must Be Removed
Description Rhode Island high court held that high trees planted to block a neighbor’s view of the ocean were a nuisance, a spite fence, that had to be removed. The trees were planted in retaliation for one neighbor opposing the other’s request for a change in zoning of the property.
Topic Real and Personal Property
Key Words Nuisance; Spite Fence; Privacy; View
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Bloomquist’s home sits on a lot below Dowdell’s home, which is on a hillside overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Bloomquistl petitioned the zoning board to grant him a variance to build a second story addition on his home. The addition would block Dowdell’s view of the ocean, so Dowdell opposed the variance request and it was denied. Bloomquist then planted a row of forty-foot-high trees on his property in front of Dowdell’s home. The trees blocked Dowdell’s view of the ocean. Dowdell sued, contending that the trees were a nuisance that created a “spite fence” in violation of state law. The trial court held for Dowdell; Bloomquist appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The row of trees along the property line is a “fence” for purposes of the spite fence statute. A spite fence is a nuisance because it not only blocks the passage of light and view, but it does so unnecessarily for the malicious purpose of annoyance. The trees are not a hedge for privacy as Bloomquist contends. Given the acrimony between the parties, there is little question about why the trees were planted. Damages are not the proper remedy, so equitable relief of allowing Bloomquist to have a fence or row of trees not more than six-feet high is the proper remedy.

Citation Dowdell v. Bloomquist, ---A.2d--- (2004 WL 484886, Sup. Ct., RI, 2004)

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