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Man builds dam on property line, flooding out neighbors' yard

Posted at 7:51 PM, Jun 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-06-29 19:51:57-04

WAYNESVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Disputes between neighbors are common.

But, a man in Waynesville called the News 13 Help Desk saying the person next door to him put his property underwater on purpose.

Joe Cook claims his neighbor flooded his barn and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Now, he has hired an attorney who says criminal charges and a civil lawsuit could be coming.

Cook now needs rain boots just to walk through his barn.

"I guess some of my machines are ruined," he said. "I don't even want to go back there. I get depressed every time I come in here."

He said that is where he kept much of his equipment -- and many of his life's memories.

But that's been destroyed by several feet of water and Cook says it's all because of a concrete wall.

He dammed my whole property up and he ruined my property. Cook said his neighbor built the wall right along their property line. That neighbor owns the land above his home, up the hill and behind his property as well.

"We haven't been able to sleep for a couple of weeks. I probably lost 10 pounds, I can't eat, I can't sleep, I'm obsessed with this thing," Cook said.

Cook decided to document the whole thing, taking hundreds of pictures, including photos of his chickens, who died in the rising water.

He said his neighbor refuses to talk with him about why he built the wall or what can be done about issue.

Cook said he believes it's because he refused to go along with plans for future development in the area.

"I just want to be left alone -- leave me alone. My garage is ruined; somebody told me the foundation is undermined so I can't afford to build a new garage," said Cook.

He also decided to call News 13 and call a lawyer.

"I was absolutely flabbergasted that someone would do such a thing, and I think a jury would feel the same way," said Rusty McLean, a Waynesville attorney who is now filing a lawsuit against the neighbors in civil court.

But, he said, there is a criminal side to this as well.

Under North Carolina law," McLean said, "you cannot interfere to such an extent with the natural flow of water that causes damage to another person. McLean said it's not where the wall was built, but rather how it changed the flow of water across Cook's property and the damage that caused.

News 13 attempted to speak with the neighbors but was told "no" upon going to their house and asking for an interview.

News 13 also checked with the Haywood County Sheriff's Office, which confirmed there is an investigation into the issue.

A spokesperson sent News 13 the following response:

"The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office does have an open and active investigation regarding the case you have inquired about. The Haywood County Sheriff’s Office is collaborating with other agencies; including Haywood County Environmental Services, NC Department of Natural Resources, an engineering firm, and attorneys to resolve this issue. This is being re-visited later today and that meeting could determine the next steps. Criminal charges could still be forthcoming, but we do not have any further information on that yet."

Meanwhile, Cook is left waiting on the courts while his property waits underwater.

"The last week when we were in church the sermon was 'Love thy neighbor,' but that's kind of hard to do," said Cook.