My neighbour is poisoning my trees.
April 17, 2005 8:33 AM   Subscribe

How do I save my trees from a destructive neighbour?

Both our properties have a view (through a few trees) straight to a very large lake. He is very anal, trimming his trees and hedges into Lego shapes, and I am the opposite, letting things grow wild and organic. I have a long, tall, 40 year-old juniper hedge that prevents his view laterally down the lake, but the hedge was established long before he moved in. Beside the hedge, I have two beautiful 40-foot blue spruces, a cherry tree and pear tree, a monster silver birch, and a flowering crab-apple tree, all of which are well established. When he moved in, he said the hedge should be cut down because it was "too prickly" for his kids. He has picked away at it over the years, but about six years ago I had to phone the police after he hacked out large holes (about 300 branches) when I was away. He admitted cutting the branches, saying they were on his property (which they weren't) then denied it to the police. Since then, the hedge has been struggling, and the other trees have been showing signs of rot, which is totally out of character. Even if I do soil tests to determine what he is using, I cannot prove it was he. He doesn't need to come onto my property; he can shoot a super-soaker over the hedge. Yes, I have repeatedly asked him to stop. As disturbing to me as the damage to the trees is the mindset of anyone (especially a medical doctor) who would do this to improve his view, or the resale value of his house. My kids have been eating these "organic" cherries and pears. I'm thinking of erecting a huge plywood sign: REWARD for the ARREST and CONVICTION of those responsible etc. Suggestions, please.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Set up motion controlled video surveillance, preferably with a hidden camera, then prosecute the hell out of him when you catch him in the act. Nowadays you can do this with a ~$200 webcam and some software and the computer you're using anyway. You might need to pay a bit more for a camera solution that allows you to remote the cam, but considering what it costs to replace a full-grown tree I'd consider it worthwhile.
posted by localroger at 8:45 AM on April 17, 2005

It looks like this type of thing happens quite a bit.

Do you have a city council where you can register a complaint? Or perhaps a nearby university can supply some students who can test soil samples or the tree for you? Other frustrated homeowners have used video cameras to catch neighbors in the act. Take digital photos of your hedge and trees and keep a journal so that damage over time can be recorded.

I wouldn't suggest erecting a sign, as this will only escalate the situation and make him more determined. However, if you can establish a "tree watch" (and avoid involving other neighbors), you might be able to capture the data that will help to build a case.
posted by jeanmari at 8:49 AM on April 17, 2005

Got a photo?

Tricky. I'd want revenge want healthy plants AND decent growth. It's a bit far down the track for negotiation I suppose. Is putting up a sign going to actually help?

I think you need to really know if there's poison - for the kids' sake primarily. Get it tested if you're pretty sure about it.

If it is poison, then I'd talk to a lawyer about the likelihood of the Police getting/acting on a search warrant. And/or you need some sort of Judge's order directing the dickwad to leave the plant alone. That takes you down the road of possibly spending a bit. I'd think the poison test alone could be a couple of hundred (I don't know).

Trouble is, you don't have verification about the previous episode when dickwad lied to the cops.

Is there a kind of community nature/landcare association? Maybe they could come and give it the once over and an opinion and maybe write something down officially. That might provide some leverage with the cops.

Other than those hollow musings I guess I'd go commando mode: sugar in his gas tank, dogshit in the letterbox etc etc......some urban mayhem AND a fucking great big sign to block his view.

on sounds a good idea. [And mayhem!]
posted by peacay at 9:02 AM on April 17, 2005

maybe he's frustrated because you're not reaching a compromise? if you tried to meet him half-way, doing some trimming then perhaps you could defuse the situation.
posted by andrew cooke at 9:02 AM on April 17, 2005

get a video camera ... soil samples if you can ... and document, document, document ... when you have what you need on him, sue him in civil court ... depending on what the damages are you may be able to take this to small claims

you may also want to research whether he's violating any pesticides or wetlands regulations and report that to the proper authorities ... not the cops, regulatory agencies

by the way, are his kids so stupid that they'd climb into a prickly hedge twice?
posted by pyramid termite at 10:57 AM on April 17, 2005

I don't think you'll need to go to court. If you just tape him doing it, I would say giving him a copy of the evidence should be enough to tell him you mean business.

If you do give him a copy, you might want to tell him you're moving the camera so the next shot will come out better. :-)
posted by shepd at 11:32 AM on April 17, 2005

Wow. This neighbor sucks. I have nothing to add as far as advice, but just wanted to send you my empathy. I grew up in the 'burbs and our neighbor across the street accidentally planted a bunch of bushes about an inch over his property line . His neighbor forced him to move the entire set of shrubs (no easy task). OTOH, our trees always pissed off our neighbors in the fall, plus we still have a huge tree which takes up about 3 feet of our neighbor's property, but despite it all we maintain(ed) a great relationship.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 11:49 AM on April 17, 2005

As others have mentioned document it or it doesn't exist and also video tape. I would suggest installing two video cameras, both capable of day and night capture (ie, use one that as a IR feature on it). Install one as a visible camera near the target that is fully in view and can be seen. Also install one on your roof, or somewhere else out of view, so that if the first one is sabotaged the second will record it. Then send out a flyer to all your neighbors (including the neighbor you suspect) and ask for vigilance and detail your one camera. Also mention that you have talked to a lawyer and that if you capture them in the act they will receive X penalty.

The sign also might help. You'd be surprised how it stops 90% of trespassers.
posted by sled at 12:07 PM on April 17, 2005

With any bad neighbor, it's a good idea to clarify & flag your property lines. Get a new survey if you have to, then post regular, legal No Trespassing signs. A huge plywood sign could be against zoning laws, and the normal, fluorescent-colored Posted signs are plenty visible.

You may have a state or local forestry agency that can help you determine your trees' health problems and issues-- there are plenty of reasons why plants near a lake might show signs of rot besides poisoning.
posted by obloquy at 1:02 PM on April 17, 2005

I've never understood the massive hate-on some people have for trees.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:29 PM on April 17, 2005

I would imagine the oppourtunity to meet half way was destroyed when the neighbor damaged the tree behind your back. The fact they are showing evidence of rotting is even more pathetic.

I suggest considering all the above options, except after a soil test, plant new trees alongside them as well.
posted by Dean Keaton at 11:23 PM on April 17, 2005

He's a doctor? Get his fucking license pulled.
posted by trondant at 12:07 AM on April 18, 2005

five fresh fish......I think it's more about the guy having a lake view and possibly less about hating trees...........but obviously he is no greenophile. Let's hope he's better at Doctoring than he is at neighbourly social etiquette/negotiations.
posted by peacay at 1:28 AM on April 18, 2005

Please keep us updated! I'm always interested in how these neighbor disputes turn out.
posted by agregoli at 7:43 AM on April 18, 2005

Thank you all for your empathic comments. This may take me much time and expense, but I will let you all know how the situation resolves. I agree his MD license should be pulled, since the Hippocratic Oath says, "I will..abstain from whatever is harmful or mischievous." Anyone know a good environmental lawyer in BC who would take this case?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:58 AM on April 18, 2005

As far as testing for poisons, I've been told by a tree guy that driving copper nails into trees can also (slowly) kill them, so try putting a metal detector up against the trees...
posted by raster at 10:33 AM on April 18, 2005

Where in BC is this happening, WGP?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 AM on April 18, 2005

It's no consolation, I know, and I can't picture your exact setup. But I live next to a guy who grows a 14 foot high leylandii hedge 14 feet from my house. That means we get no sun in our living room for 6 months of the year, frosts persist until early afternoon and nothing grows in its shade, and we avoid using that entire side of garden because of the ghastly shade.

I have no legal rights whatsover (I even have to return any roots to him that I dig up from my lawn - this is the UK, BTW) and it feels grossly unjust. Trees are lovely for those for whom their position suits, but can also be a complete misery for those for whom the position does not suit.

I offered to pay to have them replaced with a less intrusive species (to no avail) - is there some creative compromise like that you can reach?
posted by RichLyon at 1:59 PM on April 18, 2005

five fresh fish: I sent you an email answer.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 12:15 PM on April 19, 2005

WGP drop me an email if this is in the Kamloops area.
posted by Mitheral at 8:50 PM on April 19, 2005

This is in BC? Crap, that is happening all over the place there. There was a big suit with people in Vancouver poisoning city trees for a better view of the water. What the hell is wrong with people? Good luck, w-g p.
posted by fionab at 11:25 AM on April 25, 2005

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