Laurelhurst Neighborhood Battle Over Bill Gates Family's Hedge Reaches Its Final Cut

The Hedge
The towering hedge that once kept the public away from Bill Gates' bachelor pad has disappeared, and so apparently has the two-decades-long war that had some Laurelhurst neighbors up in arms - or at least pruning shears.

The park-encroachment land dispute pitted the rich against the very rich, resulting in calls to the cops, incriminating photos being snapped, and the hiring of attorneys by both sides.

At times, it broke out into unneighborly shouting matches and pruning-shear raids on the 10-foot Russian laurel hedge bordering a home once owned by America's richest man, today the property of his sister and her husband, Libby and Doug Armintrout.

But the hedge that took over more than 2,000 square feet of parkland and emotionally divided the wealthy enclave has now been cut down and uprooted.

Left behind is a swath of dirt soon to be landscaped as part of the rectangular public property, a mostly filled-in historic ferry landing called Waterway No. 1 next to Lake Washington.

"We were encroaching on that property, and the neighbors really wanted to have that land back, and now they do," a conciliatory Libby Armintrout told the Seattle Times. "The toxicity is gone. It didn't feel good to pull out of the driveway and know people were upset."

Kate Lloyd, one of Armintrout's most vocally critical neighbors, earlier told the Weekly, "We've had several shouting matches out there." She led the charge to reclaim the slice of public property taken over by the Armintrouts and Gates, who sold his sister the $3 million home in 1994.

A neighbor couple on the opposite side of the parkland, Linda Lewis and her husband, Dr. Robert Lewis, also had a hedge encroaching the park but said they obtained a permit for it. They did have an unpermitted dock however, that encroached into the state waterway.

Recalling how Starbucks chair Howard Schultz once paved a driveway through a city park, Lloyd said "It's sort of like we have an aristocracy in Seattle that thinks it can take over parks."

One of her co-conspirators in the Laurelhurst hedge battle was enraged enough to attack one of the hedges with pruning shears. She was just "a little granny," said Lloyd, but the homeowner came out "and took pictures of her!"

The state Department of Resources, which administers the property, has been working on a settlement with the neighbors for several years to permit the Lewis's reconfigured dock and remove the Armintrouts' hedge.

DNR Deputy Supervisor Bridget Moran told SW that "We try not to get involved in neighborhood disputes. The intent is to make sure the peoples' land is managed accordingly, and we think we've done that."

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