Fence Dispute

A fence at a property on Palmetto Road is at the center of a legal dispute. (Photograph by Ted Fitzgerald/The Pilot)

The poet Robert Frost wrote that good fences make good neighbors, but in Pinehurst they just seem to make more litigation.

A Pinehurst couple is asking a judge to rule that one of their neighbors illegally trespassed on their property during a home renovation project three years ago.

That is the latest development in a lawsuit Randy Acres and his wife, Soek Yie Phan filed against Stuart and Alison Paul and their contractor, Bowness Construction Co., in 2018.

As a result of the dispute, Acres installed a fence along the back of his property at 55 Palmetto Road that adjoins the Pauls’ lot. The fence blocks one end of a gravel alley that runs between homes on Village Green East and Laurel Road. Residents have used that alley for decades, since the garages are in back of the houses.

Attorneys for the Pauls and Bowness Construction, in their responses to the initial lawsuit, have denied the claims against them. They have asked that the lawsuit be dismissed.

Enter Moore County, which stepped into the dispute in June 2019. It sued Acres and his wife to make them remove the fence because it is over water and sewer lines that run along the alley.

Charlotte attorney R. Locke Beatty recently filed a motion in Moore County Superior Court asking for a partial judgement on the issue of liability in the trespassing claim in the suit against the Pauls and Bowness Construction. Beatty is the third attorney to represent Acres and his wife. The first two attorneys withdrew because of differences with their clients.

Beatty says in the latest motion that this action is a result of the defendants’ “total disregard” of the plaintiffs' property rights. He says it is “undisputed” that the Pauls’ general contractor permanently expanded a gravel alleyway onto the plaintiffs’ property without their knowledge or permission.

Locke says in the filing that after Acres and his wife discovered that the defendants had trespassed on their property, “they confronted Bowness and demanded that the encroachment be reversed.” It says the contractor said he did not know the location of the original alleyway border, even though its workers moved it and kept asking Acres to “prove the location of the original border” with “photographic” evidence.

According to the motion, railroad ties marked the boundaries of the properties along the alley.

That “forced” Acres and his wife “to defend the entire back line of their property from defendants' unlawful intrusion by building a fence at considerable expense,” Beatty wrote.

It says the Pauls are also liable since Bowness was their contractor.

Southern Pines attorney S. Kent Smith, who represents the Pauls, said Wednesday that they “disagree” with these claims and that they will file a response “at the appropriate time.” He said he could not comment further.

The Pilot has not been able to reach Greensboro attorney Brian Alligood, who represents Bowness Construction, for comment.

The Pauls, who live at 50 Village Green East, rebuilt a guesthouse and garage at their rear of their home and installed an in-ground pool, the suit says.

Locke says in his motion that early on in the renovations, Bowness requested permission from Acres and his wife “to occasionally back its construction trucks onto one corner of their property. He says they agreed “to this limited use of their property.”

But instead, Acres and his wife say the contractor used their property as a staging area for its construction equipment and that subcontractors would park their trucks sometimes for more than a day. They say this “intrusion” left ruts in their yard.

During the renovation, contractors removed trees that created a boundary of the gravel alley between the two homes, the motion says.

“The removal of the timbers, among other changes made during the renovations, caused plaintiffs' property to suffer substantial rainwater runoff from the Pauls' property,” it says.

It says Acres and his wife asked that the railroad ties the contractor removed be put back, but in doing so, they moved the edge of the alley two feet onto their property.

Acres and his wife filed the lawsuit against the Pauls and Bowness Construction Co. in August 2018 claiming that their property has been damaged by their home renovation project.

The suit says the new “larger” guest house and garage “now loom” over their property. It also says the increased elevation of the Pauls’ backyard, along with the work that has been done, has resulted in increased stormwater runoff of their property and surrounding property.

The suit says the plaintiffs repeatedly asked the village of Pinehurst to stop work on the project so their complaints could be investigated.

In their response to the lawsuit, the Pauls denied that they “disturbed the plaintiff’s property in any way.”

In a separate lawsuit, the county said in its filings that it is “immediately and irreparably harmed” the fence because it blocks employees to service the water and sewer lines.

Last year, Acres and his wife had asked that the case be moved U.S. District Court. U.S. District Court Judge N. Carlton Tilley Jr. denied the request in April, returning it to state court.

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com

(3) comments

Conrad Meyer

I think this case will continue to be very entertaining and educational.

clarkson groseth

Rather than quoting "the neighbor," I would have quoted the opening line of the poem.

Here's what Google has to say: "A widely accepted theme of "Mending Wall" concerns the self-imposed barriers that prevent human interaction. In the poem, the speaker's neighbor keeps pointlessly rebuilding a wall. More than benefitting anyone, the fence is harmful to their land. But the neighbor is relentless in its maintenance. The speaker is upset his neighbor does not think critically about the fence upkeep and instead relies on tradition over reason." Just sayin'

Susan Thomas

In this case, I would question it being a good fence.

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