Cordray Wrong About State Law in Lake Erie Shore Dispute

Sheffield Lake, OH – The Ohio Lakefront Group, a coalition of over 7,000 Lake Erie property owners, today responded to a legal brief filed by the Ohio Attorney General in its pending case before the Ohio Supreme Court. The property owners are disputing the improper taking of deeded land.

Ohio law says the state’s interest in the waters and submerged lands of Lake Erie does not extend beyond the water’s edge. However, the Attorney General claims ownership of the dry shorelands of Lake Erie, which in many cases are the privately-owned backyards of property owners. He believes these property owners should pay rent to the state for land contained in their deeds.

“This case in Ohio is not about public access or public rights to the waters of Lake Erie, all of which are secure and none of which are under attack,” Ohio Lakefront Group President Tony Yankel said. “This case is about private property, and the unjust effort by the state to strip it away from thousands of Ohioans without compensation.”

“The Attorney General claims he is attempting to ‘protect the important resource of Lake Erie for the good of all,'” Mr. Yankel said. “However, opening all of this privately-held land along Lake Erie to uncontrolled public use – which means bonfires, litter and increased crime – will only harm Lake Erie, not protect it. The individuals who choose to live along Lake Erie have the strongest interest in protecting it, not bureaucrats in Columbus.”

In his filing, the Attorney General argued a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision based on a Florida coastal dispute bolsters the his case. However, the two cases deal with distinctly different issues and are grounded in differing state laws. The U.S. Supreme Court decided in the Florida case that issues of private property rights are to be decided in accordance with appropriate state law. Florida law deals with “tidal” water, and Florida’s private property extends only to the “mean high tide mark.” Ohio law deals with non-tidal water, and Ohio law says private property extends at least to the “water’s edge.”

Under a controversial action initiated by former Gov. Bob Taft, the state sought to claim the land along the Lake Erie shoreline for its own purposes. The property owners brought legal action against the state and were successful in federal court, common pleas court and the court of appeals. Former Attorney General Marc Dann appealed the case to the Ohio Supreme Court. Attorney General Richard Cordray is continuing the Dann case.

The Ohio Lakefront Group is a non-profit association of Lake Erie property owners and other concerned citizens committed to the protection, preservation and enhancement of private property rights. More information on the group can be found at www.ohiolakefrontgroup.com.

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