A Private Right-of-Way Easement Leaves Owner the Right to Remaining Use of Property

In Bedford v Rogers (COA No. 299783), the individual lots in the Glen Eyrie subdivision do not extend to the shore of Crystal Lake. Rather, the plat depicts a 100-foot wide strip of land, running the entire length of the subdivision and designated as the “Lakeway,” between the south border of the platted lots and Crystal Lake dedicated to the common use of property owners in the Glen Eyrie plat. 

When defendant sought to rebuilt and slightly expand her boathouse, the township issued the appropriate permit. After completion of the boat house, plaintiffs brought an action on a trespass and nuisance theory arguing the new boat house was constructed on the Lakeway, being an irrevocable easement, and they were prevented from exclusively using the portion of the Lakeway in front of her lot by constructing a new structure that expanded the footprint of the old boathouse.

Defendant argued 1.) she owned the portion of the Lakeway between her lot and the lakeshore in fee simple subject to an easement in favor of plaintiffs, 2.) she had the right to make reasonable exclusive use of that portion of the Lakeway, and 3.) that the new structure, despite being bigger, still did not unreasonably interfere with plaintiffs’ limited easement rights in the portion of the lakeway owned by defendant. The trial court found for defendant.

The COA panel determined that the Lakeway was, in fact, a private right-of-way easement only. As such, defendant was still fee owner of the property existing between her property the edge of Crystal Lake. Defendant’s fee ownership entitles her to make use of her property in any manner that does not infringe on the dedication.

In reviewing the conclusion of the trial court that the new boathouse was a mere “de minimus” burden on plaintiffs’ easement over the Lakeway, the new boathouse was not an infringement of plaintiffs’ limited rights of right-of-way access.

Author: Philip Ellison

Philip L. Ellison, MBA, JD, Esq is an attorney, business counselor, and civil litigator with Outside Legal Counsel PLC. He represents riparians, backlotters, and others protecting water access on Michigan's recreational lakes. Visit his online profile at www.olcplc.com.

Leave a Reply