When neighbors fight over the view

There’s nothing that provides head-scratching like a good dispute between entitled neighbors.

That’s underway in Milwaukee, where residents of a pricey neighborhood have battled over a view of Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says.

The dispute started in 2016 when furniture executive Scott Mullins trimmed trees in his yard to get a better view of the lake. Then, uninvited, he went into the yard of Kathe Lake and cut — “pruned,” he says — 150 more.

It only cost him $355 in fines and the time it took his wife, Laura, to send a written apology to Lake.

“We are guessing you, like us, chose the neighborhood because of the location and the amazing view. Regretfully, the priority of our view overtook the higher priority of neighborliness in this situation and we sincerely apologize for this.”

Lake sued. But it was dropped just before it went to trial in 2017 after the two sides reached a deal of some sort.

Then she had three pine trees planted in her yard, 18 birches a couple of days later, and added three more pines in July, the Journal Sentinel says.

The Mullinses sued, seeking damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress caused by what they claim is a “spite fence” under Wisconsin law.

The two are due in court later this month.

  • Jack

    First world problems of the moneyed.

  • Jay Sieling

    Perhaps one of the oddest ‘non-apology’ apologies I’ve ever read.

  • Gary F

    150 trees? You didn’t say something after the first 5? 37? 121?

    150 Trees is a lot of trees. If you are paying for someone to do it or doing it yourself?

    No one saw this trimming?

    • Joseph

      Could have happened while the property owners were out of town.

      • AmiSchwab

        i had a garden neighbor with a habit of “pruning” my trees and shubs.
        not a view thing or shade problem. i would notice branches and leaves on his garden from my trees. when i told him to stop cutting my trees, he asked – why? happy to say ex- garden neighbor. ps i’m not a rich person but a tree hugger.

        • I cut lilac bushes when they come over the fence onto my side. At that point, I think they’re my lilac bushes. Suburbanites with their new homes plant stuff wayyy too close to the borders (and their houses) because they don’t think about what the bush/tree/shrub will be like at maturity.

          • The Resistance

            Always a good idea to ask first. Some pruning is better done at different times of the year. With lilacs, you’re probably fine, but with oaks, for example, you could invite oak wilt which could kill the whole tree. Then you’ve got neighbor problems.

            You are right about people planting without realizing how the plants will look at maturity. Nearly every old house in St. Paul has arbor vitae planted within two feet of the foundation.

          • Jack Ungerleider

            I’m not a lawyer, but I think you’re right about pruning stuff that comes over the property line. It probably is best to try and coordinate things, but it’s my understanding that the part that hangs over onto your yard is a) yours to deal with if you don’t want it and b) yours to deal with if causes somebody else a problem. This in part because if the overhang causes damage to your property it will be your home owner’s policy that pays for it.

    • Jeff C.

      I think it was 150 branches, not trees.

      “But there were other branches in the way. Perhaps inspired by the saying
      it is easier to seek forgiveness than permission, he went into his new
      neighbor’s yard and cut 150 more, without her knowledge.”

  • Maybe they should have bought the house with a better view of the lake in the first place?

  • Jim in RF

    I would have figured it was Whitefish Bay

  • https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5f20a6de922c1bcfabfa74cb16c001e019e3a280bfdd24a305a34b362a1bb9ad.jpg


    One photo is the Google street view from the lake (the “pruner” is in the house in the background), the other photo is a satellite view.

    Two things come to mind:

    1) They bought that house KNOWING what the view was “obstructed”

    2) 150 trees “pruned”?? I don’t see 150 trees blocking the view.

    Gotta love that the garage has the best view of the lake from that second house.

    EDIT: The address is public information. It took me 1 minute to find this information.

    • Jeff C.

      See my reply to Gary – I think it was 150 branches, not trees.

  • The Resistance

    A version of this happened to us. Our neighbor cut down a dozen of our large trees that were 20-30 feet within our side of our rural property line. It happened just a month after we closed on the property and suddenly our house was visible from the nearest paved road, which was not previously the case. We hadn’t met the neighbor yet and didn’t want to start a neighbor war, and didn’t have definitive proof that it was him that did it (although it seemed pretty obvious), so we put up a small sign asking that no one cut our remaining trees. We cut up all the debris he left on our side for firewood, replanted, and 12 years later the replanted trees were wiped out by a storm so we replanted again. It still gets under my skin, but I’d probably handle it the same way. There’s not much worse than a neighbor war. Which is why I’ll never buy property in Rand Paul’s posh cul de sac.

  • X.A. Smith

    One of the craziest neighbor disputes I’ve ever heard of happened over the last few years in Sioux Falls. Someone tore down a home in an old-school fancy neighborhood and built a McMansion that was almost comically oversized for the plot of land. Three years later it was forcibly torn down.