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Ohio Lakefront Group Files Motion for Attorney’s Fees in Wake of Supreme Court’s 7-0 Decision

ODNR Forced Home Owners to Sue to Protect Property Rights, Ignored Lower Court Rulings

The Ohio Lakefront Group (OLG), representing 7,000 Ohioans owning property along Lake Erie and other waterways, today filed a motion asking for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to compensate them for the $578,244 spent on defending their property rights in a seven year legal battle.
The lawsuit began in 2004 when ODNR assessed some landowners for rent on their lakefront property and culminated on September 16, 2011 in a unanimous decision by the Ohio Supreme Court which affirmed the property owners’ rights and rejected the ODNR definition of owners’ property lines.  A Lake County trial court and appeals court had both previously affirmed the property owners’ rights.
“ODNR should have changed their policy years ago and stopped trying to charge us for property we had already purchased,” said OLG president Tony Yankel of Bay Village.  “ODNR just didn’t listen to two lower courts and a 1993 Ohio Attorney General’s opinion that supported our position.
“We didn’t want to take the issue to court but if we hadn’t, ODNR would have gotten away with an illegal taking of our property,” Yankel continued.
“We are only asking the State of Ohio to compensate us for the money we were forced to spend to defend our rights as property owners,” Yankel concluded.  “Our motion does not include compensation for the thousands of volunteer hours that homeowners were forced to spend fighting this policy that was so clearly wrong.“
The Ohio Lakefront Group represents nearly 7,000 property owners.  Its law firm in the proceedings was the Cleveland office of Calfee Halter and Griswold.

Read the Court filing, click here.Motion for Fees

Media Contact: Matthew Henderson

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Ohio Supreme Court Decision Sustains Private Property Rights

We won our Property Rights

“This court has a history of protecting property rights, and our decision today continues that long-standing precedent.

In what was a very long awaited decision, the Ohio Supreme Court released its decision in our 7 year battle for our property rights. There were actually 3 questions before the court from the Appellate Court and Trial Court decisions.

1. Did the Ohio Attorney General have standing in the Appellate Court after the Governor directed ODNR to honor private property deeds and subsequently ODNR withdrew from the appeal?

2. Did the National Wildlife Federation and the Ohio Environmental Council properly intervene in the case as allowed by the Appellate Court?

3. Did the Trial Court and the Appellate Courts rule properly that the landward extent of the public trust extended only to the place where the water and the land meet, a moving boundary, at any point in time.

The third point is most important as that was what our lawsuit was all about. In summary, the court stated:

Based on opinions of this court from as early as 1878 and the Ohio General Assembly’s statement of public policy enunciated in the Fleming Act in 1917, we conclude that the territory of Lake Erie held in trust by the state of Ohio for the people of Ohio extends to the “natural shoreline,” which is the line at which the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes.”

The Court further elaborated in their ruling,

“Having clarified that the territory of Lake Erie is held in trust forthe people of Ohio and extends to the natural shoreline, the line at which the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes, we affirm the appellate court to the extent its judgment is consistent with this pronouncement, but we reverse its decision implying that artificial fill can alter the boundary of the public trust and its decision to affirm the trial court that the boundary of the public trust changes
from moment to moment.

Regarding questions 1 and 2, the Court found that the Attorney General does have standing in the Appeal for the State since the State was a named party along with the ODNR in our lawsuit. Further the NWF and OEC likewise are proper interveners since their members who fish and otherwise recreate on and along the shores of Lake Erie have an interest in the outcome of the lawsuit.

Read the full text of the Ohio Supreme Court Decision, click Ohio Supreme Court decision (01255925)

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Ohio Lakefront Group 2011 Annual Meeting

meeting2The Ohio Lakefront Group Annual Meeting was held  at the Holiday Inn Westlake on Thursday May 26th.  The business meeting was conducted by Greg Baeppler. After a call of additional nominations from the floor for the Board of Directors and there were none, a vote was cast by the secretary to accept the slate of officers as submitted by the nominating committee.  Greg announced changes in the Board; former Board member Bob Merrill has retired form the Board. Former Board  member Bob Bunsey was elected to replace Merrill. The remainder of the board is unchanged. To see the  2011 Board  of Directors, please visit our website. Rick Rennell presented the Treasurer’s report. Rick noted that expenses exceeded income for the year, however a carry over balance from the previous year covered all expenses with some surplus for the coming year. The formal business meeting was adjourned.

OLG President gave a brief presentation giving examples of how the ODNR is determining historic shoreline boundaries and how it affecting current shoreline property owners. He also showed photos of private property trespass including duck hunting and littering.

Maurice Thompson, Executive Director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, returned this year to discuss our case and his Amicus Brief referring to wild animals as State property and the absurdity of claiming land where they roam, as the State is claiming land that may have once been covered by the waters of Lake Erie. Maurice stated that if we should lose in the State’s Appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court, our case would be ripe for appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court since the State would be trumping private property rights as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Ohio Senator Tim Grendell spoke of his history with OLG’s fight for private property rights and  the need for all OLG members to continue their support.  He stated that if we win, we need to clarify Ohio law on the extent of the Public Trust, which will require  time, energy, and finances. Conversely, should we lose the case, we will need to mount an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Tim pledged his continued support to protecting private property rights.

After a question and answer period, the informal portion of the meeting was adjourned.

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Ohio Lakefront Group Annual Meeting

The Ohio Lakefront Group Annual Meeting will be held again this year at the Holiday Inn Westlake on Thursday May 26th. Registration will begin at 6:30 PM. The business meeting will begin at 7:30. Election of 2011 Board members will occur during the business meeting. We will have speakers including elected officials. Senator Tim Grendell is expected to speak as he has at all of our Annual meetings.

Plan on attending this important meeting and bring friends and neighbors. Meet the principals in the lawsuit and get the latest information.

We hope to have good news by the time of the meeting! Please mark your calendar. You will receive you official invitation by U.S. mail along with driving directions.

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