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Dispute over Michigan boat dock going to court

A 150-foot boat dock near Cambridge Township, Mich., is at the center of a legal controversy. The canopied dock, which was constructed by local residents, lies in disputed territory according to conflicting readings of town records. An attorney who lives near the dock feels that under either interpretation it should be removed and has sued for its removal.

At the heart of this legal question over land use lie competing interpretations of the town law. The attorney feels that the dock connects to the land within a public road's right of way, and the dock has no place there. He also asserts that the dock was constructed in a space that had been dedicated by the town for a road since 1926, although the road was never built.

Although the plaintiff lives next to where Elm Court was supposed to be, it is unclear who has the right to enforce the 1926 plat. The township feels that it has no responsibility or legal duty to regulate the dock, and that the plaintiff does have the legal standing to make a claim on his own.

In the absence of clear laws regulating this issue both sides have based their arguments on precedent and tradition. The plaintiff claims that previous cases in Michigan have established that private citizens have no right to build private docks in a public right of way. The township believes that in the absence of specific legislation it has clear legal duty to remove the dock. An attorney with experience in real estate and land use matters may be able to provide advice and counsel to a client in a similar property dispute. Such an attorney may be able to outline to the client various rights and remedies that may be available.

Source: Sturgis Journal, "Wamplers Lake dock dispute headed for hearing", September 17, 2013

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