BAR HARBOR — The couple being sued by their neighbor for allegedly cutting down trees on his property asserts in a counterclaim that they didn’t do it. They argue that his suit is retaliation for their complaints about “a barrage of gunfire” from an outdoor shooting range on his property last summer.
Reeve Waud, who owns a multimillion-dollar residential compound on Deep Cove off Indian Point Road, alleged in a suit filed in November against William and Nancy Kales that they had felled about 20 of his trees to provide a better view from their house. The suit claimed that, in the process of opening the view, about 30 other trees were destroyed.
Waud owns the property through Deep Cove Holdings LLC. The Kaleses and their corporation, Amscray LLC, own four houses on neighboring property.
The Kaleses state in their counterclaim that “Plaintiff knows Defendants did not cut, or cause to be cut, any trees on its property.”
Rather, they allege, the suit was filed “to retaliate against them for alerting the town, and objecting to, the gunfire from the newly constructed gun range facility on [the plaintiff’s] property.”
“Fearing the worst when they first heard the barrage of gunfire in late July, Defendants called 911,” the counterclaim states. “When they learned that the gunfire was from recreational shooters at Plaintiff’s … gun range facility and the gunfire was not abating, they contacted the town manager on August 11 to object. On August 12 the gunfire ceased.”
In a letter dated 12 days later, Waud’s attorney, Roger Katz of Augusta, told the Kaleses that Waud intended to sue them for their “outrageous acts of trespass and criminal mischief.” Katz noted that the Kaleses met with Waud in his Chicago office in November 2014 to request permission to cut down some trees on his property and that Waud had turned down that request.
Nevertheless, Katz wrote, his client recently had discovered that the Kaleses or someone alleged to be acting on their behalf had “gone ahead and ignored his directive, trespassed onto his property, cut down approximately 20 mature trees and simply left them on their ground where they fell, leaving a huge aesthetic and environmental mess.”
Katz told the Kaleses that Waud’s suit would seek civil damages to replace the trees, punitive damages and compensation for the increased value of their property attributable to the removal of the trees and improvement of their view.
Katz said the suit also would ask for “the remediation costs to restore the Waud land back to its previous condition, which may exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Katz said Waud was willing to resolve the matter out of court, but only if the Kaleses agreed to certain conditions. He said they would have to admit that they had the trees cut and apologize for doing so. They would have to commit to “having the area completed cleaned out, the cut trees and stumps removed and mutually acceptable new trees be planted in their stead.”
Another condition of avoiding a lawsuit, Katz told the Kaleses, was that they provide the names and addresses of whoever actually cut the trees, along with the dates they were cut.
Finally, Katz said, the Kaleses must “make a charitable contribution of a mutually agreeable amount to a mutually agreeable local charity.”
The Kales’ attorney, Peggy McGehee of Portland, responded to Katz in a letter dated Oct. 9. She told him that, not only did her clients not have the trees cut, but the trees in question were not the ones they had requested permission to remove.
“They have no reason to have wanted such trees cut,” she wrote. “They did not and still do not have a view of Blue Hill from their house.”
She said the Kaleses invited Waud to “stop by and see for himself,” but he did not respond.
McGehee said in her letter to Katz that a forester and a Maine Forest Service Conservation ranger inspected the felled trees at Waud’s request on Sept. 17, 2015, and determined that they had been cut no later than early 2014, which was several months before the Kaleses met with Waud to request permission to remove some trees.
“They noted the fungus growth, stump deterioration and absence of pine needles in support of their findings,” she wrote. “Their more expert opinion than either Mr. Waud or the Kaleses refutes Mr. Waud’s untrue and extravagant claim that the Kaleses cut the trees after meeting him in 2014.”
McGehee said it is clear that Waud’s motive for threatening them with a lawsuit was retaliation for their objections to “ongoing inexplicable gun shots” on his property.
Referring to Nancy Kales, McGehee wrote, “She said that it sounded to her like a massacre and she was terrified. Others nearby also reported the shooting, including some people on the water.”
Mount Desert Police Lt. Kevin Edgecomb told the Islander shortly after Waud filed his suit in November that, according to the Police Department’s records, officers responded July 29, 2015, after “multiple people called about the gunshots.” He said people on Waud’s property were found to be skeet shooting. They were not in apparent violation of any laws.
McGehee wrote in the Kaleses counterclaim that Waud had failed to provide any evidence of his “meritless allegations” regarding the tree cutting, and she called his lawsuit “an abuse of the judicial process.”
She alleged that the plaintiff was “improperly using the discovery process … to harass and intimidate” her clients by making “onerous requests [that] only serve to impose additional burden, expense and legal fees … .”
McGehee asked the court to dismiss all of Waud’s claims against her clients. She also asked that Waud be ordered to pay their attorney’s fees and all other costs related to the case, plus punitive damages.
Waud is founder and managing partner of Waud Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Chicago. His seasonal residential compound is on a 102-acre lot in Mount Desert. Adjacent to that property, on the Bar Harbor side of the town line, Waud owns a heavily forested 63-acre waterfront lot that abuts the Kales’ property. Waud’s undeveloped lot is assessed for tax purposes at $7.5 million.
The Kaleses, whose primary residence is in San Francisco, built their seasonal home on a 4.2-acre lot off Indian Point Road in 2013. The house and lot are assessed at $929,000.
Under Maine civil statutes, a person cited by law enforcement authorities and later convicted of illegally cutting someone else’s trees, a violation officially called “timber trespass,” can be ordered to pay the landowner between $25 and $150 per tree, depending on its diameter. Restitution also can be ordered.