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REAL ESTATE 12: Plaintiff sought to limit the rights of non-riparian lot owners.

Plaintiff sought to limit the rights of non-riparian lot owners to maintain a dock at the end of a dedicated private road abutting a lake.

A riparian owner has the right to build and maintain a dock at the edge of the water. The reservation of a right of way for access to a body of water does not give rise to riparian rights, but a riparian property owner may grant an easement to backlot owners to enjoy certain rights that are traditionally regarded as exclusively riparian.

Here, the plattors of the Subdivision dedicated the streets as shown on said plat to the use of The public excepting those indicated as ‘Private’ which are dedicated to the use of The Lot Owners. At issue in this case is a street between lots 31 and 32 that ends at the lake and that was designated as private on the plat map.

Plaintiff argues that the trial court erred in finding that defendants were riparian landowners, but the trial court made no such finding; it determined that defendants had access to the road and could maintain a dock based on cases that involved rights incident to a dedication of platted property. Essentially, the court concluded that the plattors of the Subdivision reserved a private way of access to the lake for the lot owners of the subdivision.

Generally, roads that are dedicated for public use and terminate at the shore of navigable waters are presumed to have been intended to provide public access to the water. A road dedicated to private use that terminates at the edge of a lake should be presumed to have been intended to provide access to the lake.

Individuals who gain access to a navigable waterbody have a right to use the surface of the water in a reasonable manner for such activities as boating, fishing and swimming, as well as the right to temporarily anchor boats.  The right to build a dock at the end of an access road is derived from the plattor’s intent to provide access to the water, because building the dock aids in the access. Thus, plaintiff cannot prevent defendants from erecting a dock where the dock is within the scope of the plat’s dedication and does not unreasonably interfere with plaintiff’s use and enjoyment of property.

The testimony of residents of the subdivision that the area had historically been used to access the water, and included a dock, accords with a finding that the area was intended to be used for access to the water and that a dock was to be included.

The trial court found that the lot owners may moor boats temporarily to the dock, but this does not mean that boats may be moored overnight. It denied plaintiff’s request that the dock be removed.

Are you involved in a real estate dispute in Michigan? If you are facing a residential real estate matter, seek the advice of an experienced and skilled real estate litigation attorney at Aldrich Legal Services in Plymouth. Our attorneys have litigated literally thousands of cases. Our founding attorney, Brad Aldrich, is a knowledgeable real estate lawyer and skilled trial lawyer with more than 19 years of legal experience.

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