Rockport couple alleges abutting property owner removed their fence, cut 13 trees

The front view of 11 Church Street, owned by Southern Venture LLC and its owner Andrew Morlet who, neighbors claimed, removed part of a fence and cut 13 trees on their adjacent lot.
The front view of 11 Church Street, owned by Southern Venture LLC and its owner Andrew Morlet who, neighbors claimed, removed part of a fence and cut 13 trees on their adjacent lot. Buy Photo
Posted April 08, 2013, at 12:48 p.m.
Last modified April 08, 2013, at 5:19 p.m.

ROCKPORT, Maine — A Rockport couple claim that 40 feet of fence and 13 trees on their property were illegally removed by a neighbor who owns the former town high school.

Joseph W. Grealish and Katherine T. Grealish of Summer Street in Rockport filed a lawsuit Friday in Knox County Superior seeking $300,000 in damages against their neighbor Andrew Morlet of Rockport and London, England, and his company Southern Venture LLC.

The Grealishs claim in the lawsuit that Morlet, who owns the adjacent property on Church Street, had requested permission more than two years ago to cut down the trees to enhance his view of the water.

Southern Venture purchased the Church Street property, which includes the former Rockport High School, in 2009 for $600,000. Morlet had the former school renovated into a large apartment for him and additional apartments that are leased to other people.

Rockport High School closed as a school about 50 years ago.

Both the Grealish and Morlet properties overlook downtown Rockport and Rockport Harbor.

The Grealishs state in the lawsuit that they denied Morlet permission but that on two separate occasions he tried to hire two different tree removal companies to remove the trees. Each refused because they did not have permission from the Grealishs, according to the lawsuit.

The Grealishs claim that a week before Christmas, while they were away, Morlet either removed or had someone else remove 40 feet of a 200-foot-long fence that separates their properties and had the 13 trees cut and removed. They claim in their lawsuit that this constituted theft of their property.

The couple also named Dominic Fontaine of Camden and Boston as a defendant in the lawsuit, stating he was paid $800 by Morlet to cut down the trees.

Fontaine later advised Katherine Grealish that his contract with Morlet authorized him to go on the property and cut the trees, according to the lawsuit. The contract also indemnified Fontaine from any claims, according to the lawsuit. Fontaine reportedly told Grealish that he had recommended only pruning the trees but was instructed by Morlet to cut them down.

The Grealishs claim $100,000 in damages for removal of the 14 Norway maples that were cut. The trees were of varying width, between 3 inches and 22 inches in diameter, according to the lawsuit. The suit seeks treble damages claiming the wrongful act was intentional.

The Grealishs are represented by attorney Dana Strout of Rockport.

Morlet and Fontaine could not be reached for comment.

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