October 22, 2008
Charles Libbey, 80, likes to spend his days watching golfers from the deck of his townhome and smoking cigars.
Kim Acee, 52, lives in the unit next door, and she likes to spend her days breathing without an oxygen tank.
Each accuses the other of ruining life at the Woodbridge Townhomes - 64 units in 13 buildings built in 1981 on 10 acres amid the Country Club of Colorado golf course at Cheyenne Mountain Resort. (See photos at my Side Streets blog)
Acee wants the Woodbridge Homeowners Association board to make Libbey stop smoking on his deck, or even inside his home, because the fumes seep into her unit.
Her complaint raises the question: Can covenants prohibiting noxious and annoying activity and odors by residents be used to stop a townhome or condo resident from smoking if the fumes penetrate a neighbor's walls?
It's an emotional question for all involved, and it has quickly ratcheted up in intensity. All sides have lawyered-up. They have exchanged accusations and threatening letters.
The dispute erupted in July after Libbey moved in next to Acee, a two-year resident of Woodbridge.
"His cigar smoking is the cause of noxious, hazardous, unsafe and annoying odors which are covered in the Woodbridge covenant rules," Acee said in her complaint to the HOA.
"His activity is the cause of injury to my health. This is a covenant issue. Not a right-to-smoke issue."
She says Libbey chain-smokes stogies and she has been stricken repeatedly, requiring emergency hospitalization, extensive testing and treatment.
"I have no allergies," she said. "I did a complete renovation of this townhouse when I moved in to create a complete nontoxic home. Now, I can't even breathe without oxygen."
Even worse, she said, is the reaction of the HOA board. She wants the covenants enforced and Libbey punished until he complies. Instead, she said the HOA board has turned against her, refusing to respond or inform her of action on her complaints.
Libbey is shocked at the furor that has erupted over his cigars.
"I am an optional smoker," he said. "I like a cigar after a meal. I go outside, have a smoke.
"I was only here a couple weeks when she was on my butt."
When Acee complained about his cigar smoke, Libbey said he moved his smoking indoors. When her complaints persisted, Libbey said he started smoking only in his car.
"She's put me in a bind," he said. "I don't even smoke in my own house anymore. It's baloney."
Then came the insult of a visit from police after Acee accused him of spying on her with binoculars.
"I have binoculars to watch the golfers," said Libbey, whose deck overlooks the fourth hole of the golf course. "She says I'm spying on her. Give me a break."
The stress is getting to Libbey, who already was dealing with the loss of his wife of 54 years last December and adjusting to life in a new house.
"I can't take it anymore," he said. "I want to be a good neighbor. If my smoking bothers her, I'll quit. But I wish she'd leave me alone."
Actually, there may be a compromise possible. Acee said she likes an HOA suggestion that Libbey smoke out front, instead of on the back deck near her air conditioner and bedroom windows. But the idea hasn't been discussed because she objects to the way the HOA is treating her.
"I have a lot of compassion for this man," she said. "But this is a very serious issue with my health. And I can't afford to move. I feel very badly."
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