The Christensens purchased property adjacent to the McVicars in 2006, and obtained a permit to begin construction on an indoor riding arena building for the horse operation they conducted on the property. The area the Christensens’ were building on was in extremely close proximity to the McVicarses’ property. The building had “dimensions of 120 feet wide by 260 feet long, giving the building 31,200 square feet of floor space.” The building was approximately 50 feet tall at its peak, and covered with a white fabric or “membrane.” A gravel road ran parallel to the property line and was the only access point for the building. In 2007, the McVicars filed a complaint alleging the building was a nuisance. The complaint essentially stated that “odor, dust, and flies accumulated from the horse operation, and that noise and light from the fabric building interfered with the McVicarses’ use of their property.” The District Court found that the Christensens’ “conduct unreasonably interfered with the McVicarses’ enjoyment of their property,” and was therefore a private nuisance. The District Court directed the Christensens’ to move the building to a different location and “fully abate the cumulative effect of noise, dust, traffic, lights, and odor that constituted the private nuisance.”
The main issue on appeal was whether the District Court erred in finding that the Christensens’ conduct constituted a private nuisance. The court first stated that under the nuisance law, a landowner does not have the right to prohibit the erection of a structure on adjacent land simply because it finds it to be aesthetically unpleasing. However, the court went further stating that the exception to this rule takes effect when “a structure has no useful purpose and is only erected to injure a neighbor.” Because the Christensens’ fully complied with all the necessary zoning requirements to build the structure, and the structure had a relevant purpose the District Court erred when it directed the Christensens’ to move the building to a different location. Thus, the mere size and proximity of the building alone did not constitute a nuisance in it of itself; and the court remanded the case to determine whether the cumulative effects of the activities constituted a nuisance, as opposed to its mere size and proximity.
McVicars v. Christensen, 2014 WL 631228 (2/20/2014)
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