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The Sound of Ideas

Lakefront Property Rights

Posted Thursday, September 23, 2010

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Lake Erie and other bodies of water belong to all of us, a water-filled playground for boating, swimming and fishing. But do we own the shores and banks? Do we get a little sand with our surf? Property owners along Lake Erie say beaches connected to their land belong to them; the public's rights stop where the water hits the land. Lower courts have agreed. And now the state Supreme Court must decide who owns the shoreline. Private property vs. the public interest, this morning at 9:00 on The Sound of Ideas.


Environment, Government/Politics, Other, Housing/Real Estate


Richard Cordray, Ohio Attorney General
Tony Yankel, property owner and president, Ohio Lakefront Group
Jim Lang, attorney
Jack Shaner, Deputy Director, Ohio Environmental Council

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Ron Dustman 8:27 AM 9/23/10

I built a home on Lake Erie in 1995 when this story began in court.  Our property is not what one would call a haven for beach goers even though we do occasionally have some beach (depending on the season and time of year).  The problem I have with public access to the shoreline can best be expressed with a question:  Would you like having someone unknown to you having free access to your back yard?  Privacy and security are serious considerations.

Debbie 8:37 AM 9/23/10

This issue has been pointing to the Lake Front owners only.  But it is really a land grab that can have a far reaching effect for all land ownership.  The question is:  Are our deeds as land owners valid or not.  Is there an election coming up?

James 8:46 AM 9/23/10

If private property ends at the waterline, are all of the docks and boat houses built on public “land”?

John Watkins 8:54 AM 9/23/10

I thank WCPN for having this conversation. 

ODNR’s position is that the public has the right to commerce, navigation and fisheries on the lands beneath navigable waters.  Owners of land fronting along Lake Erie have the rights to wharf out to navigable waters, the right to access the the Lake, and the right to reasonable use of the waters of the Lake. ODNR does not take a position on the right of the public to traverse the shore along the water edge, and believes that the courts should address this issue.  In implementing the submerged lands lease program, we have proceeded with executing leases with the presumption that at certain times when the water covers the beach, the public has a right to commerce, navigation and fisheries in that area.  Our previous position is that the furthest extent of that area is the Ordinary High Water Mark. Since the lower court decision in 2007, our position is that the furthest boundary is the water’s edge, except in cases where fill has extended beyond the natural shoreline.  It appears that there is a significant misunderstanding our our position.

Kent Kemmerer 9:10 AM 9/23/10

Jack Shaner mis-characterizes the intent of the lawsuit. It has nothing to do with regulation and permitting as he says. It is only about the private property owner being able to exclude trespassers from his property as deeded to him. The deed says to the waters edge, not to the Ordinary high water mark. The deeds are traceable to before statehood. The latter was established in 1952 by the Army Corps of Engineers for regulation by state and federal authority regarding navigation and recreation in the waters of Lake Erie. The property owners have NEVER opposed this regulation when administered fairly by ODNR. This mis-representation by the State and persons like Jack Shaner misinforms the public making them think that property owners will be able to build fences and other structures with no regard to authority. This misconception is just plain FALSE!

Thomas Pirko 9:18 AM 9/23/10

Ohio is enduring the wrath of a duplicitous fake-grassroots movement.  The shoreline becomes quite valuable when developers can build with minimal regulation to represent the interests of the public.  There are fortunes to be made. 

This isn’t about uninvited guests leaving beer bottles in the backyard. 

Audubon Magazine, November/December 2007 explains it this way:

“The Ohio Lakefront Group was cloned from a Michigan outfit called Save Our Shoreline—largely a front for the real estate industry but also including individual privatizers—which slipped a “beach-grooming” law through the Michigan legislature in 2003. “

Mary 12:42 PM 9/24/10

The highwater mark in Port Clinton would place nearly all of the lakefront homes in some neighborhoods (i.e. Sand Road) within the public domain.  I’m lakefront and I cannot tell you where the official highwater mark is on my property; that requires a survey. How is the general public supposed to know where it begins and ends since it changes from property to property depending on the property’s elevation?  I can tell you where my deeded property begins and ends on the northside and that’s at the water’s edge.  My neighbor had the highwater mark survey done by ODNR and her livingroom and kitchen are within the highwater mark. Hope this comment enlightens you to the possible consequences to landowners if the deeds are not honored as written.

RAY 2:56 PM 9/25/10

Has the Lakefront Group spoken to any title insurance companies to find out how they will be able to determine insurance rates and areas of coverage if the property line is ever moving?  That and the fact the landowners could actually lose ownership to some of their property in rainy periods raises the adage of “Look out what you ask for as you might actually get it.” Also, the landowners should get ready to pay additional attorney fees in legal disputes between sellers and purchaasers of lakefront property if they get their way.


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