This is important, on approaching neighbors. I’ve had it go both ways, and really kind of dread it, because we are not in control, we are asking a favor and may get denied.
My success has been with neighbors that I’ve had some kind of previous speaking relationship with. I think they saw in the moment I asked that the issue was important to me, and simply decided to help me out.
My failures were the reverse. The neighbors I didn’t know were a bit hesitant and suspicious, and then perhaps their egos became engaged. In each case I asked it as a favor, explaining its importance to my astronomy. Based on this, I’d say before a problem arises, hopefully years before, grab the opportunities to talk with neighbors, just friendly and conversational, maybe mentioning during those conversations your astronomy activities.
I’d like to see this group or forum develop a “script” for starting a conversation with a neighbor. A plan. We need a focus group of non astronomers to tell us what to say and how to say it! I suspect the problem is what George said... it can easily be taken as criticism of their house, their aesthetic choice, or their judgment on safety.
So, what exactly worked for you? What exactly did you say, and how did you say it? Did you have a prior friendly relationship with them?