Lawsuit says trees were chopped down to improve Kendrick’s view

Earl “Ken” Kendrick, the owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, is being sued by his neighbor on McLain Flats Road after he allegedly ordered that 16 cottonwood trees be cut down to better his downvalley view.

Bradley and Kimberly Schlosser filed the lawsuit Wednesday in Pitkin County District Court. The Schlossers are the largest owners of private property in downtown Austin, Texas, according to the Schlosser Development Corp. website.

The couple and Kendrick share a property line, and the plaintiffs access their residence through an easement that includes land owned by Kendrick, according to the lawsuit. Trees were planted along this driveway by the previous owner in 2006, wrote the Schlossers’ attorney, Richard Neiley Jr. of Glenwood Springs.

While Kendrick owns the easement, he never protested the planting of the trees, the lawsuit says. And some of the cut trees might have been on a separate easement owned by the Schlossers. Before buying their residence in 2010, the couple had their real estate agent contact Kendrick about the trees, which were included as part of the deed to the Schlosser property, Neiley said in an interview Thursday.

“The issue in dispute is that my client says he owns the trees,” he said. “The defendant knew they had been planted there and never raised an objection” before the Schlossers purchased the land.

But in 2012, Kendrick, or a representative of his limited liability company that owns the property (which is also named as a defendant), told the couple that the trees along the driveway interfered with the defendant’s downvalley views. It was requested of the couple that they “take steps to trim or otherwise control the growth of the trees,” Neiley wrote.

“In response to defendants’ concerns, the Schlossers voluntarily, but without obligation, undertook efforts to mitigate the perceived impact of the trees by hiring Aspen Tree Service in the spring of 2013 to trim the trees and inject [them] with a material to reduce the growth rate,” the lawsuit says.

But Kendrick allegedly demanded a written agreement regarding the trees, and the sides began to negotiate. An agreement was not reached, however.

“On Aug. 18, 2014, without consent from the Schlossers, and without any notice … defendants caused all 16 trees along the Schlosser driveway to be cut down and removed from the easement, leaving all 16 stumps of the trees in place,” the lawsuit says.

Some of the trees exceeded 30 feet in height, Neiley wrote, adding that Kendrick also had lighting along the driveway removed. The company Kendrick hired obtained a permit from Pitkin County.

But the county required that Kendrick “provide a disclosure and proof of ownership of the property for which the tree-removal permit was sought, including the names of all owners of easements affecting the use and development of the property and the owner’s right to use the land for the purposes identified in the application,” the lawsuit says. “When the defendants submitted the application for the tree-removal permit to Pitkin County, they did not disclose the Schlossers’ ownership of the easement or of the trees because the defendants intended to deprive the Schlossers an opportunity to protect their interests …”

The Schlossers contend their property has been devalued. The lawsuit includes claims of malicious and wanton destruction of trees; trespass; and “extreme and outrageous conduct/intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

The litigation is similar to a 2013 case in the midvalley. Two high-profile attorneys and neighbors fought over the removal 30 to 50 old growth aspen trees so one could have a better view of Mount Sopris. That case was settled and dismissed in December.

The Schlossers’ lawsuit reserves the right to seek in excess of $100,000 in damages.

chad@aspendailynews.com