Woodbine neighbors rail at each other over disputed fence, end up in court

April 28, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Good fences don't necessarily make good neighbors.

On Duvall Road in Woodbine, for instance, a gray plank fence helped land two neighboring couples in court amid charges of animal cruelty and allegations of a handgun being brandished.

Ivan M. Markowitz and his wife, Jamie Y. Markowitz, have sued next-door neighbors Ernest Carson Hassell and his wife, Teri S. Hassell, for $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for the "creation and maintenance of a nuisance."

Last week, county Circuit Judge James B. Dudley heard both sides of the dispute and ordered a continuation of an injunction prohibiting the Hassells from attempting to take down the fence, which they charge is on their property and is depriving them of its use.

The Hassells are also "enjoined from and shall refrain from annoying or feeding any horse belonging to plaintiffs," according to court papers.

Judge Dudley also ordered the Markowitzes to remove a satellite dish and a pickup truck from the Hassells' property.

The case is scheduled for trial Oct. 3.

The trouble between the neighbors began last year. The Markowitzes bought their 3.6-acre property in July; the Hassells bought their 2.5-acre property in November.

Near the boundary of their two properties is the fence, built in 1972, according to the Markowitzes' suit.

Using the legal principle of "adverse possession," the Markowitzes charge that they are entitled to keep the land, even if a survey shows it isn't part of the parcels they purchased.

After a court hearing last week, the Hassells' attorney, Harry B. Siegel of Columbia, said that when his clients moved in, they were greeted by "no trespassing signs" preventing them from having access to their property, as well as an oozing manure tank and manure pile they believe is polluting their well water.

The Hassells, who referred all questions to Mr. Siegel, are in the process of having private tests performed on their well water.

The manure comes from the Markowitzes' quarter horses, which the couple breed for show. Mr. Markowitz is a member of the governing board of the Maryland Quarter Horse Association.

The Markowitzes' suit alleges that "the defendant, Teri S. Hassell has been observed by plaintiff to climb upon the certain wood boundary fence and swing her weight, which is ample, against the fence in an apparent attempt to weaken and destroy it."

The suit also alleges that Ms. Hassell "has been observed to lean through the wood fence into the plaintiff's horse enclosure and feed his horses rotted forage, which if ingested by them would most likely injure them with colic, indigestion, and other malady."

But the dispute escalated beyond the fence, the suit alleges.

The Hassells filed complaints, the suit charges, with county police and animal control authorities, accusing Mr. Markowitz of abusing and mistreating his horses.

"It was a very minor complaint, and the case was resolved very quickly, and the case has been closed for some time," said

Animal Control Director Brenda S. Purvis.

She said the warden who answered the complaint determined that the horses were not being mistreated.

In response, the Hassells asked County Councilman Charles C. Feaga, a 5th District Republican, to "order the Animal Control personnel to charge the plaintiff with criminal maltreatment of his valuable horses or to change the law so as to make him culpable," according to the the suit.

The suit adds that when Mr. Markowitz attempted to post "no trespassing" signs on the fence, the Hassells "forcibly removed the signs, summoned the police, and falsely reported to the police that plaintiff was armed with 'a semiautomatic pistol' and saw him 'load two rounds,' causing police to respond to plaintiff's land, armed for an encounter."

County police spokesman Lt. Tim Branning said police responded to a complaint at the Markowitzes' home on Feb. 13 and determined that the case was a "neighbor dispute involving property lines" and made no arrests.

"All my clients want is to live peaceably in the neighborhood," said Thomas Lloyd, the Markowitzes' attorney, after hearing Judge Dudley's decision to continue the injunction Friday.

Mr. Siegel described the dispute as "an unfortunate situation."

"I think that both of the parties are very concerned about their property rights and their other rights. I think everyone came away with something they wanted and everyone came away unsatisfied, because we're in the middle of a case."

While the Markowitzes should be pleased that the fence must be maintained until the trial, the Hassells got what they wanted from Friday's hearing because the the Markowitzes' were ordered to move the satellite dish and truck from behind the disputed tree-enclosed area, Mr. Siegel said.

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