State high court says Camden spite fence of trees must be cut

By Stephen Betts | Aug 15, 2019

Camden — The state's highest court has upheld a lower court ruling that orders a Camden woman to remove some trees and cut back others that were planted to block the view of a neighbor.

The Maine Supreme Judicial Court issued its ruling Thursday, Aug. 15, on an appeal filed by Patricia Arcuni-English. The justices had heard arguments in the case June 26.

The case has been in the courts for more than three years.

The justices ruled that Arcuni-English's planting of trees was done with malice and constituted a spite fence and a nuisance. The high court said the lower court ruling crafted a fair and limited remedy that allows the Camden woman to maintain the privacy of her Harbor Road property.

Justice Joyce Wheeler had ordered in February 2018 that within 60 days Arcuni-English must remove every other pine tree along the boundary between her property and that of neighbors Richard Tranfield and Kara Doremus-Tranfield and trim all the arbor vitae to a height of not more than 10 feet. She must also remove seven trees she planted as an additional row along the arbor vitae.

And a restriction must be included in the property deed to prevent any growth in excess of 10 feet in the area that would block the narrow waterfront view from the neighboring property.

Arcuni-English appealed that ruling, which had been on hold pending the high court's decision.

Arcuni-English's attorney, Joseph Baiungo, had argued June 26 that his client was simply following the recommendations of a landscaper on where the trees should be planted. He said the trees were not planted in malice, which is an element of determining that something is a spite fence.

Attorney Dana Strout, who represents the Tranfields, had argued that Arcuni-English had lived in her home for many years, and that she considered the area her own little empire.

Arcuni-English owns waterfront property on Harbor Road in Camden, north of town and off Route 1. The Tranfields own the adjacent property away from the water.

The Tranfields filed the court complaint in May 2016. A jury-waived trial was held in September 2017 in Knox County Court.

Wheeler noted in her ruling that the relationship between the neighbors began poorly on the first day the Tranfields moved into the home they had purchased in January 2016. Richard Tranfield wanted to start a fire at his home and went next door to see if he could borrow firewood. Arcuni-English was not home and he took some wood, but left a note on her door, saying he had borrowed the wood.

He met the woman as he was leaving, and she thought he was stealing, according to the judge's ruling.

Soon after, he removed a tree that was 18 feet inside his property. Arcuni-English confronted him and told him that "In this neighborhood, we don't do any cutting without discussing it with the neighbors first."

She was also upset that he later cut some bushes and overgrown branches.

The woman had argued to the court that the trees were not planted as a spite fence, but to restore the privacy she had enjoyed for the more than 40 years she had lived in her house.

Wheeler pointed out in her ruling that the Tranfields had been warned by people after they filed the lawsuit that their legal action could cause them to be ostracized by the garden and yacht clubs.

Comments (3)
Posted by: Donald Herrick | Aug 16, 2019 05:25

this seals it your neighbors now have more right over your property than you do

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Aug 15, 2019 16:23

In your day people picked a last name. What's with all these hyphens?

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Aug 15, 2019 15:45

Neighbors or out-of-stater's? Sounds like NOT Natives to me and that they do not know how to be neighborly like a "Mainer". Grow up! Extend the helping hand and know when to back off for privacy sake. In my day we purchased acres and small farms. Joined the Grange and helped with school activities. I became a "Mainer". with lots of good neighbors around me. I eventually became the Postmaster of Hope and owner of Hope Store. We all extended a helping hand and lived in harmony.

Mary "Mickey" (Brown) McKeever

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