January 20, 2010 – Republican state lawmakers call on Ohio Department of Natural Resources to stop sending letters demanding lease payments to lakefront property owners on land that they already own. State Legislators Tim Grendell, Tom Patton, Bill Seitz, Nan Baker and John Adams were among the speakers. This has been an going battle concerning Lake Erie shoreline deeds:

Here is a copy of the release:

Columbus (OH)– Legislators and property rights activists today called into question recent actions of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

The issue stems from a lawsuit over property rights and whether the state will be allowed to reverse centuries of law to allow public access to previously private property along Lake Erie.

Nearly 3 years ago, Governor Strickland ordered ODNR to stop enforcing a policy that required landowners to lease their own property from the state. However, ODNR has continued to enforce the leases.

“ODNR has apparently gone rogue,” State Senator Bill Seitz said. “Governor Strickland and Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher have repeatedly pledged their support for Ohio property owners. It’s baffling how an agency under the Governor’s control could refuse to comply with his instructions.”

Seitz was joined by colleagues Representative John Adams (R-Urbana), Senator Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), Senator Tim Grendell (R-Chesterland), Representative Nan Baker (R-Westlake), and Tony Yankel from the Ohio Lakefront Group, which filed the initial lawsuit.

State Representative Nan Baker says she’s met with dozens of citizens who have expressed outrage over ODNR’s actions.

“The Governor directed ODNR to stop charging citizens to lease their own property,” Baker said. “Yet I’ve talked to dozens of property owners who are being threatened with legal action if they don’t pay those same lease fees.”

The legislators pointed to the Governor’s campaign pledge to the Lake Erie landowners.

The Governor is previously on the record saying, “I have concluded that the lakefront owners rightfully own the land as specified in their deeds,” and that he and Lee Fisher believe “the State of Ohio has gone too far and is unjustified in its attempt to take this land from those who rightly own it.”

State Representative John Adams says he is worried that the Attorney General and ODNR are trampling Ohio citizens’ rights.

“Private Property rights are among the inalienable rights guaranteed in our Constitution,” Adams said. “Ohioans should be very worried that the state thinks it can take a portion of your backyard without paying you for it.”

The lawsuit began in 2004 when property owners sued ODNR to prevent them from charging owners a lease fee for their own property. In 2007, Governor Strickland directed ODNR to drop the case and honor the deeds of property owners.

While ODNR initially complied with the Governor’s order, former Attorney General Marc Dann vowed to continue the litigation on his own. After Dann’s resignation in disgrace, Richard Cordray continued to press the lawsuit. The property owners have prevailed in Lake County Court, Federal District Court, and the 11th District Court of Appeals. The case is now on appeal in the Ohio Supreme Court.

State Senator Tom Patton said it’s important to remember that all Ohioans could be affected by the outcome of this case.

“This case is far bigger than Lake Erie or Northern Ohio,” Patton said. “Every Ohioan who lives on a lake, river or stream should be concerned with the state’s attitude.”

The Attorney General argued unsuccessfully before the 11th District Court of Appeals that the State of Ohio gained ownership in 1803 of the beds of all navigable waters of the state, not just Lake Erie, up to the ordinary high water mark. If this legal position were adopted by Ohio courts, it could radically alter the last 200 years of Ohio law governing ownership of inland lakes, rivers and streams.

State Senator Tim Grendell said that ODNR’s current behavior is unacceptable.

“ODNR’s position is directly contrary to the governor’s stated policies. Either Attorney General Richard Cordray and lawyers for ODNR have misrepresented the Governor’s position in the Supreme Court, or Ted Strickland and Lee Fisher have broken yet another campaign promise,” Grendell explained. “Ohioans have a right to know where the Governor stands on honoring the deeds of all Ohioans.”

The Ohio Supreme Court is currently deciding whether to accept an appeal from the Attorney General and environmental groups.

Following are video links of excerpts of the press conference!

OLG President Tony Yankel – Introduction and Background

Senator Bill Seitz

Representative Nan Baker, Sentator Tom Patton, Senator Tim Grendell, Representative John Adams

Question and Answer Segments