Lake County Court Upholds Property Owners’ Rights

September 6, 2012 – Declares Leases Partially Invalid and Orders State to Refund Lease Payments Wrongfully Taken

Win In case the Attorney General, the NWF and OEC did not actually acknowledge that OLG won its case all the way through the Ohio Supreme Court, Lake County Common Pleas Judge Eugene A. Lucci spelled it out in his recent Order. After months of discussions with ODNR and the Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and numerous briefs filed to the Court. Judge Lucci ruled on the major issues in the case. He specifically rejected the claim by the State that the “ordinary high water mark” was the boundary of waterfront property. “Instead, the Court found that home owners’ boundaries should be calculated according to when the lake’s water is at rest, without disturbance.”

As highlighted in a press release by OLG President Tony Yankel, the four important parameters settled by the Court:

1. Voided any submerged land leases forced by the State of Ohio on property owners of any land above the natural shoreline.

2. Rejected the State’s assertion of authority to compel property owners to lease back property owned by them as specified in their deeds, including lands lost due to avulsion.

3. Ordered the State to provide notice and guidance to the public and to governmental authorities on these rules establishing boundaries for waterfront property.

4. Ordered the State to refund all submerged land lease fees for property covered in this suit paid between 1998 and the present.

Further, President Yankel said: “On behalf of the more than 15,000 property owners along Ohio’s Lake Erie waterfront and the 6,000 members of the Ohio Lakefront Group, which brought this law suit eight years ago to defend our rights, we are gratified that the court upheld our position that the State of Ohio had overreached in its dealings with Ohio property owners.”

According to Judge Lucci’s decision, if the waters are undisturbed by such short-term and perceptible occurrences as storms and wind tides, then the natural shoreline is the water’s edge. This boundary between private and public ownership is readily discernible without any expert assistance by the public, property owners, law enforcement and the state of Ohio.

Judge Lucci further explained that the public’s right to use Lake Erie “is limited to the water itself” and, thus, does not include any portion of the dry land adjoining Lake Erie.

To read the press release click here.

To read Judge Lucci’s Order click Lucci’s Order