OLDSMAR — For several years, Tim Dederick and his neighbors, the Smiths, lived in peace on Evergreen Drive, a quiet residential street just blocks from Old Tampa Bay.
Now, the next-door neighbors are embroiled in a bitter conflict that has disintegrated into an all-out feud.
Among the core issues: a few inches of dirt. That's the disputed territory in a disagreement over the property line.
Dederick is suing Terry and Carol Smith and their 20-year-old son, Tyler, claiming the family has encroached on his property and habitually harasses, bullies and threatens him. The allegations in the suit include trespassing, destruction of property and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Dederick is also asking a judge to intervene in the land dispute, alleging the Smiths' chain-link fence is on his property.
The Smiths contend they are the ones being persecuted, to the point they don't even like to be outside of their home anymore. Carol Smith said her family is thinking about moving out because the situation has become so stressful.
"It's a nightmare," she said. "He's made all these allegations and none of them are true."
The 41-year-old Dederick said he had an amicable relationship with the Smiths for several years when he lived with his parents. He moved out for a time, but bought the house and moved back in after his parents died.
Dederick said he tried to talk to the Smiths about the property line discrepancy uncovered during a survey, but was rebuffed.
"I have tried as peacefully, as reasonably, and as much as I could, to work this out as reasonably, as calmly and as privately as I could," Dederick said, adding that he offered to pay any expenses incurred to clear up the problem.
But Carol Smith, 46, said problems started before the survey. She claims the relationship soured after her husband declined to help Dederick with some home improvement projects.
The Smiths allege Dederick has placed several cameras on his roof that record the family's comings and goings. But Dederick said the cameras were set up to record their trespasses on his property.
The Smiths argue that the survey showing Dederick's property line running through their land was erroneous and has since been corrected.
"We have three legal, legitimate surveys all showing the property lines," Carol Smith said.
But Dederick's attorney, Bryan Kutchins, said he and his client had "extensive expert survey work" completed that will prove Dederick's land is being encroached on.
Dederick claims in the suit that the family shines floodlights on his house and screams profanities through his bedroom window at night.
But Smith said that the family doesn't have any floodlights facing Dederick's property and that they stay as far away from him as possible.
"That is absurd. It didn't happen," she said. "We have better things to do in the middle of the night."
Each side said they're fearful of the other. Smith said Dederick once flashed a handgun at her, which he denies. In his lawsuit, Dederick alleges he is "concerned for his personal safety" because Terry Smith, 45, owns a gun and exhibits "violent and irrationally destructive behavior."
Both sides say they want the feud to end.
Carol Smith said she and her husband planned on spending the rest of their lives on Evergreen Drive. Now, they're not so sure.
"We feel like we're being stalked," she said. "It's very frightening when you don't even want to go outside of your house."
Rita Farlow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4162.