BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Los Alamos residents Una Smith and James Szinger have filed a lawsuit in First Judicial District Court against their next door neighbors on Manhattan Loop, Karen Rigg and her daughter Lori Rigg. Smith and Szinger are seeking a preliminary injunction preventing the Riggs from altering a joint fence between the two properties and requiring them to restore the property to its “pre-violation condition”.
The suit was filed May 12 by attorney Philip Dabney who has asked for an evidentiary hearing in District Court. No date has been set for the hearing and the Riggs have not yet filed a response to the complaint. Karen Rigg owns the property and Lori Rigg, her daughter, lives there.
Smith and Szinger oppose the use of “combustible materials in the middle of high fire danger in Los Alamos County”. They maintain that the law favors them, that the boundary fence, “much like a boundary tree, is jointly owned and cannot be materially altered without the consent of both owners”. The suit claims that this follows the common-law rule that “a hedge, fence or tree alleged to mark a boundary line is jointly owned by both property owners. Smith and Szinger maintain they will suffer irreparable harm if the Riggs are allowed to alter the fence “as they fear the use of combustible materials will lead to a fire under current conditions”. The combustible materials being referred to are believed to be cedar panels.
Smith also maintains that conduct of Lori Rigg constitutes “a private nuisance”. She claims Lori Rigg has engaged in conduct that caused and continues to cause damage to her “including but not limited to damages for interfering with the peaceful and quiet enjoyment of her property and damages to the value of her property”.
It should be noted that a permit for the proposed fence was approved April 24 by Los Alamos County. The Riggs inquired of the County at that time whether or not letters from neighbors were required before they would begin to put up the new fence and the Community Development Department responded that there was no requirement from the County that they have permission from their neighbors. The response did say that “it might be a neighborly gesture” to reach out to them about the fence. The County is not involved in the lawsuit in any way. It should also be noted that the original chain link fence between the two properties remains in place and there was no plan to remove it.