$10 Million Hedge Case Dismissed

$10 Million Hedge Case Dismissed


Indian Wells, CA

Neatly manicured hedges of every size and shape accent homes throughout neighborhoods in Indian Wells. But one hedge has caused a lot of controversy. 

"It has been a neighborhood issue for a long time, certainly it has been trimmed way lower than it has been now I think in an effort to make it not look so bad as it originally did, originally it was over 20 feet high," says Indian Wells City Manager Wade McKinney.

The problem is the city ordinance says hedges must not be over nine feet high. So, what started out a citation to the homeowners Douglas Lawellin and Steven Rohlin in 2011 for violating the city’s hedge height ordinance turned into years of litigation. In the latest court battle, the U.S. District Court threw out the $10 million dollar lawsuit against the city and this time the homeowners can’t appeal.

"We expected to win we’re glad that we won, we wish it didn’t take this sort of road to get there but we’re certainly interested in maintaining the quality of Indian Wells," says McKinney. 

The homeowners claim they’re being singled out and other hedges on private and gated communities are allowed to exceed the hedge height ordinance. The city disputes that claim. 

"No, every place in the city would have to abide by the rules," says McKinney adding that homeowner associations are tougher on people who live behind their gates. 

McKinney says the city has spent about $286,000 in legal fees to fight this case and they had no choice but to defend themselves in court, "I think over all there was a lot of money spent on this issue when somebody could have just trimmed their hedge." 

The homeowners refused an on camera interview until they discussed the matter with their attorney but emailed us this update:

" … we will be filing charges against Ms. Salvatore Aldridge (neighbor) in state court for trespass and destroying our hedges and Appeal Judge Kronstradts ruling, dismissing our Federal case, with the Ninth District Circuit Court of Appeals, soon."