ODNR Fights Property Owners’ Rights In Spite of Six Consecutive Court Decisions

PRESS RELEASE IMAGEMay 19, 2014 – Ohio Lakefront Group Calls ODNR Action “Arrogant and Illegal”

(Columbus, May 19, 2014)  Despite having lost six consecutive times in court, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) filed an appeal against lakefront property owners in the Ohio Supreme Court late last week, the latest round in a ten year fight in which ODNR has forced lakefront landowners to pay rent for their own property and challenged their legal titles.

ODNR is appealing Ohio’s Eleventh District Court of Appeals’ March 31, 2014 opinion supporting class certification so that Lake Erie property owners can obtain compensation for ODNR’s unconstitutional actions. The Ohio Lakefront Group, a group of 8,000 northern Ohio property owners, is leading this fight to protect their private property right extending to the “natural shoreline” of Lake Erie.

The March 31 Court of Appeals opinion was the sixth consecutive courtroom victory for the group against the ODNR, which includes two court of appeals victories and one unanimous Ohio Supreme Court victory.  The 2011 Supreme Court decision held 7-0 that “the public trust does not extend landward beyond the natural shoreline,” explicitly rejecting ODNR policies that had forced owners to pay rent on their own property up to the “high water mark” and triggered thousands of title challenges.

“This unbroken string of court decisions clearly shows that the rights of Ohioans who live on or own property adjacent to lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks or canal traces cannot be unilaterally repealed or changed by state bureaucrats,” said Ohio Lakefront Group President Tony Yankel of Bay Village.  “These rights had been secure for more than 200 years until ODNR ‘s arrogant and illegal taking of private property.

“ODNR’s appeal continues to drag out the implementation of the Supreme Court’s decision,” Yankel continued, “and, if successful, would hamstring private citizens’ ability to protect their rights in court.

“In fact, ODNR is now using stalling tactics similar to a property rights case near Grand Lake St Mary’s in which ODNR was found to be in contempt of a Supreme Court Order.

“Similar to the Grand Lake St Mary’s case, ODNR’s filing indicates that it retained special counsel to represent them.  It’s unknown what caused ODNR and Attorney General Mike DeWine to part ways, but it won’t affect the outcome, just waste more taxpayer money in legal fees.

“On behalf of thousands of Ohioans who own property adjacent to lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks or canal traces, we ask ODNR to respect the property rights of all Ohioans and immediately heed our courts’ repeated decisions affirming those rights,” Yankel concluded.

Ohio Lakefront Group has thirty days to respond to ODNR’s appeal, and then the Supreme Court will determine whether it wants to consider the merits of the appeal.  If the Supreme Court does not accept the appeal, the case will be sent to Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge Eugene Lucci to continue the next phase of the case.  If the Supreme Court accepts the appeal, briefing and oral arguments will likely take place this year and next.

Amicus briefs supporting the Ohio Lakefront Group filed in previous cases included filings from:
·         The Ohio Farm Bureau
·         NFIB (National Federation of Independent Business Small Business)
·         Cleveland Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 8
·         Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Assn.
·         The Ohio Association of REALTORS
·         Save Our Shoreline
·         Brookwood-Cresthaven Beach Club, Inc.
·         The Linwood Park Company
·         Willo-Beach Park Association, Inc.

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