Charles inherited and owns an estate of land in upstate New York, Westchester County, Eastchester township. It's not incorporated in either Bronxville or Tuckahoe. On the west side of his land, he has a group of at least 100-year-old white oaks, Quercus alba. They are about 120 feet tall (~36 meters) tall and Charles can only see them when getting onto the top of his roof, because of the extent of his estate.

Now, these white oaks line the whole side of a small plot that is inhabited by his neighbor Max. Max got into the possession of this plot by virtue of Max winning this one plot in a farmer's fair lottery sponsored by Charles 20 years ago. In the afternoon, the trees cast their shadow into the Max' yard. A recent land survey made clear, that the trees are on Charles' land. But Max wants afternoon sun. Too bad that the trees rob him of this chance, and that Charles' is unwilling to either remove the trees or sell the land with the trees on.

Let's assume Max doesn't want the error of chopping down the trees and making himself liable for having to pay for replacing these trees. What could Max reasonably sue Charles for, to force Charles to remove at least some of the trees?

(Names and location are chosen because of C. Xavier and M. Eisenhardt)

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    josre.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/… suggests that New York municipalities can create ordinances regulating trees that shade other properties. The answer might depend on where exactly in Westchester County this is happening (city / town / village) and whether that municipality has created any such regulations. Aug 22 '20 at 18:30
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    It also seems that in some places, it might make a difference if Max wants to have solar panels, versus if he just happens to like sun. Aug 22 '20 at 18:32
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    I'm not sure what you mean by a "closed town". The entire state of New York is partitioned into cities and towns, so the land in question is necessarily located in some city or some town. It may also be in a village, or not. Aug 22 '20 at 18:38
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    I see. But towns in New York State are not necessarily population centers; they are just regions of land that may be rural. For example, here is a map of the cities, towns and villages of Westchester County. The town of Lewisboro is almost entirely rural, but if Charles's property is within its boundaries, he will be subject to its zoning ordinances. Aug 22 '20 at 19:22
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    Why does it matter that the municipality could create some ordinance? There is no such ordinance, and the question is whether Max can sue Charles. If the question were what political actions could Max take to get rid of the trees, the ability to regulate becomes relevant.
    – user6726
    Aug 22 '20 at 19:37

In Medina WA, there is an ordinance designed to deal with view squabbles. Max, however, came to the nuisance. The Medina ordinance only provides a remedy to restore a view / sunlight that existed at the time of the acquisition of the property bu which has become "unreasonably obstructed" ("unreasonably" is defined in terms of distance of trees to property line or living / entertainment area and degree of obscuring). Eastchester does not appear to have any such ordinance, though you would have to go there and dig through the files to be sure. This appears to be the zoning law. There again appears to be no provision that pertains to trees. Ordinances pertaining to fences and walls limit them to 4' in height, and a line of trees is not a fence or wall. Still, Max might try to be a pill and argue that the trees are a de facto fence. §6 of the zoning ordinances allows continuing non-conforming use. Charles can establish by a preponderance of evidence that even interpreted as a fence, the line of trees was ab initio a conforming use.


There are no rights to a view or sunlight at common law, and the fact that Charles is his predecessor in interest makes that even more clear in this context.

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