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The larger of the Grimditch family's two Lake Placid boathouses. Photo: CHris Morris, courtesy <em>Adirondack Daily Enterprise</em>
The larger of the Grimditch family's two Lake Placid boathouses. Photo: CHris Morris, courtesy Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Boathouse case may go to highest NY court

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A groundbreaking legal case about which government can regulate boathouses isn't over yet. The Grimditch family of Lake Placid hopes the state's highest court will review a June 28 appellate court decision that ruled the town of North Elba does have jurisdiction over boathouses on Lake Placid.

Previously, an Essex County judge had sided with the Grimditches, saying only the state can regulate boathouses because they're on navigable waterways, not on land.

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Chris Morris
Tri-Lakes Correspondent

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Lawyers for the Grimditch family filed a motion to appeal the case to the New York State Court of Appeals on Aug. 1. In the motion, attorney Mandy McFarland of Albany said the case should be reviewed.

McFarland said, “The issue of whether the State holds title to the land under Lake Placid in its sovereign capacity is unique, has ‘precedential’ impact, reverses prior case law issued by this Court, and should be certified for review.”

Ron Briggs, attorney for the town of North Elba, said the family will need permission from the Third Department to bring its case to the Court of Appeals. It can also get permission from the Court of Appeals itself.

Briggs said it’s unlikely the appeal will be granted for two reasons. For one, the appellate panel’s ruling was unanimous. Secondly, the ruling wasn’t final, since the case was sent back to Supreme Court for further proceedings.

The Grimditches started building two boathouses on Lake Placid in 2010, without town permits. The town sought to penalize them and have the buildings torn down. North Elba’s land-use code says a boathouse must accompany a primary structure; neither of the Grimditch boathouses meets that requirement.

In his 2011 Supreme Court ruling, Judge Richard Meyer cited two previous court cases in which higher courts ruled that a local land use code “is preempted where the dock, building or structure is located in a navigable water, because in that instance, the state has exclusive jurisdiction.”

The Appellate Division felt differently, overturning Meyer’s decision.

Meanwhile, settlement negotiations continue between the town and the Grimditches.

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