Camden resident sues to darken neighbor’s outdoor lights

The newly constructed home of O. Stillman Rockefeller. Rockefeller has filed a lawsuit against his neighbor, claiming her lights are too bright and create a nuisance.
Stephen Betts
The newly constructed home of O. Stillman Rockefeller. Rockefeller has filed a lawsuit against his neighbor, claiming her lights are too bright and create a nuisance. Buy Photo
Posted Sept. 26, 2013, at 11:46 a.m.
Last modified Sept. 26, 2013, at 6:12 p.m.

CAMDEN, Maine — A Camden homeowner has asked a judge to order his neighbor to tone down her outside lights.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Knox County Superior Court on behalf of O. Stillman Rockefeller of Bay View Street.

Rockefeller claims in his lawsuit that the owner of the neighboring property, Cove Cottage LLC, “turns on its bright lights and floods Mr. Rockefeller’s peaceful property with intrusive bright and glaring lights, which substantially reduces his ability to enjoy his property.”

Rockefeller states in the lawsuit that the situation was so severe that the town recently cited Cove Cottage for violating its light pollution ordinance.

The town’s code enforcement officer issued a notice of violation on Nov. 20. The town withdrew the notice of violation, however, on Dec. 10. In his December letter, Code Officer/Town Planner Steve Wilson pointed out that the lights had been in place for many years, before the light pollution ordinance was adopted.

Wilson also stated in his letter, however, that Cove Cottage’s owner Judy Wolf had taken steps to address her neighbor’s complaint. She discontinued the use of the lights during the winter and had replaced the lights with lower wattage frosted bulbs.

Rockefeller’s lawsuit claims that, despite being grandfathered under the local ordinance, the outdoor lighting remains a nuisance and that his neighbor has failed to “take any material action to mitigate the bright and glaring light.”

The bright lights have caused substantial harm to Rockefeller by reducing the value of his property, the lawsuit claims.

Rockefeller purchased his three-quarter acre waterfront parcel in May 2009 for $1.9 million, according to the town’s assessment records. Rockefeller has had a house built on the lot and the house is nearly complete but has not yet received an occupancy permit.

Wolf purchased her three-quarter acre property in 1995 and built a two-story home the same year. The town has the property assessed at slightly more than $2 million.

There is a fence and a row of trees separating the properties. The Rockefeller house is located about 20 to 30 feet from where post lights line the driveway of the neighboring home.

Rockefeller declined comment when contacted Wednesday.

His lawsuit asks the court to declare the “stray and dazzling lights” a nuisance and to issue a permanent injunction prohibiting the owner from operating the lighting system until it is modified so that it no longer casts bright and glaring lights on to his property. He also seeks to recoup the costs of his lawsuit.

Attorney Stephen Hanscom, who represents Wolf, said Thursday that the complaint filed by Rockefeller is grossly inaccurate. He said he would be filing a response in court and added that the lights were installed in the 1990s with the approval of the code officer.

In addition, Hanscom pointed out that the current code officer, prompted by Rockefeller’s complaint, sent Wolf another letter last month reiterating there was no violation

The lights are on timers and are turned off at 10:30 p.m. each night, Hanscom said, and they are only on when Wolf is there — about four months out of the year.

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