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Spirit of Cooperation Trumps ‘Spite Fence’ in Wisconsin’s View Protection Legal Schema

A nasty neighbor can be a terrible scourge upon an otherwise peaceful community where cooperation is prized. Fortunately, some cities, states and home associations have rules that take into account bad taste and that unfortunate human trait called ‘spite.’

In Wisconsin, a fellow named Daryl Price was quite vocal about his intention of devaluing his neighbor’s lot and home by building an “ugly” 32-foot-long cinder block fence that towered 12 feet over the property line. Actually, 16 feet when you take into account that Price illegally graded his land so that it was 4 feet higher than the adjacent lot owned by John Huss.

Price was told by his contractor that the wall would need to be faced with stone or brick, per rules created by Apple Hill Farms Development, LLP that built the subdivision. Price said he would do nothing to improve the aesthetics unless a judge ordered him to do so.

Mr. Price finally got his wish — twice. He appealed the initial decision by claiming “a nuisance finding couldn’t be based on unsightliness alone.”

In this case, the Price was not right – the court determined that a nuisance could be “a non-trespassory invasion of another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of land,” and Price was out-of-court.

We may never know why some neighbors chose to be spiteful rather than cooperative. In our experience, mediation is successful quite often when adjacent land owners find themselves in a squabble. (Read the Court of Appeals Ruling)

But when human nature takes a dark turn, we must rely on wisdom and resolve to mend community fences. This is why we continue to crusade for view protection and restoration ordinances that take into account the intangible damages created by too-tall, unfair or just unsightly obstructions.