Kepple v. Dohrmann
A view easement generally is considered to be a negative easement and, like other negative easements, protects or requires property to be left or maintained in a specific condition. A. Christine Kepple and Mark Kepple brought an action seeking a declaratory judgment against their neighbors in a Stonington subdivision, alleging interference with the plaintiffs' claimed visual easement established in a covenant document recorded on the land records in 1980. The defendants Linda and William Dohrmann own lot A while the defendants Jane and Frank Lionelli, own lot B. The plaintiffs own lot C. The covenant contained restrictions regarding residential structures and, for other portions of lot B, that "[n]o trees, bushes, shrubs, or man-made objects…may attain a height which shall arise five (5) feet above" a certain point of Lot C. A similar restriction concerned Lot A. The defendants conceded that they permitted vegetation to exceed the covenant's permitted height. Following trial, the court rendered judgment for the defendants concluding that the statute of limitations in C.G.S. §52-575a barred the plaintiffs' claims because the document created a private restriction on the defendants' properties, not a view easement. The plaintiffs appealed. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment. The trial court improperly concluded that the covenant document created a private restriction, rather than a visual easement. C.G.S. §52-575a, which bars an action to enforce a private restriction if the action is not commenced within three years of the plaintiff's knowledge of the violation, did not apply. The document states that the restrictions are covenants that run with the land. The defendants unsuccessfully contended that the document could not be construed as an easement because there was no stated right of entry onto the defendants' land or right to enforce any purported easement. Easements are created for a variety of reasons and do not require that the dominant estate owner expressly have the right to "enter and use" the land of the servient estate. A view easement, generally considered a negative easement, like conservation easements or easements protecting historic properties, require property to be left or maintained in a specific condition, whether or not the dominant estate has a delineated right of entry or access to the servient estate.