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Tree Troubles: Constructive ways to end a dispute with a neighbor

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It's happening all over the country, tree disputes ending in deadly violence.

One case occurred in Old Town, Maryland where a man murdered his neighbor after a long-running "tree" feud. In Encinitas, California a homeowner killed his neighbor over tree trimming. And in Harrisburg, North Carolina a man fatally shot two neighbors for cutting down his pine trees. He then committed suicide.

Attorney Scott Fisher says disagreements over trees are among the top conflicts between neighbors.

"I've seen it where neighbors have violent reactions to where trees are allowed to grow, how branches are allowed to grow over property lines, foliage dropping on adjacent property, roots that grow into adjacent property and affect pipes," Fisher says. 

Roots, in fact, were at the "root" of Kevin Secor's tree problem in Granada Hills, California. His next-door neighbor's large Ficus tree was threatening to ruin an expensive backyard renovation.

"The roots in the tree were pushing up my block wall and I was building my fire pit and that was right where the tree was popping up at the roots. So I was very concerned that I would not finish that project with that tree in the way," explains Secor. 

Alexia Cirino owned the tree and didn't want to do anything about it.

"It was not affecting our property. In fact, I liked it because it gave us a really nice amount of shade and as far as I was concerned, the tree was kind of a good thing," Cirino says. 

Despite Secor's repeated requests, Cirino refused to remove the tree.

Cirino states, "There were several discussions. Most of it was just tension and discomfort. I didn't wanna see him – he probably didn't wanna see me. And I didn't wanna have that conversation with him cause I didn't have the money to cut the tree down. So we were at odds about it."

After months of arguing over the tree, Secor offered to meet Cirino half way.

"He said … I'm willing to pay half of cutting it down. And we figured out how much it would be and that was better than me paying for the whole thing. So I just said OK, that's fine, we'll do it," Cirino says.

"It was a mutual agreement and it worked out really good for us," explains Secor. 

Attorney Fisher says no tree dispute should ever escalate to the point of violence.

"By neighbors working together and coming up with a solution so that the tree dispute can resolve, they certainly are providing themselves with benefits for years to come in the form of peace with the neighbor," says Fisher. 

If you're ever involved in a tree dispute, Fisher recommends working quickly towards a fair resolution. He also suggests hiring a professional tree service to assess the problem and determine the best plan for solving it.

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