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Legal assistance needed (long)

Old 09-04-2002, 04:30 PM
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Angry Legal assistance needed (long)


I need some help. I made application to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection and my local township for a permit to build a new dock and install a lift. We made all the required notifications to affected homeowners and addressed all valid concerns raised in the comments period and letter writing campaign that ensued. The DEP dismissed most of the complaints as personal issues - i.e. the dock and lift would obstruct my neighbors' view. They also dismissed the one possible valid issue - that the dock and lift present a hazard to navigation.

My neighbors also raised as an issue that there exists a deed restriction prohibiting a dock from being built further than 15 feet from the bulkhead. The DEP required us to go 15 feet to get to 4 feet of water at low tide. When I asked the DEP project review office about the deed restriction and the dock construction he indicated that the DEP submerged aquatic vegetation laws supersede our deed restriction. I also queried our local building inspector who said that the lift is not part of the dock and he would therefore not be interested in it. The building inspector stated that if the DEP approved a permit, so would the town.

I received permits from both agencies, and constructed my dock and installed the lift according to the permits.

I have now been sued by my neighbor to remove the lift

Technically, our dock meets this deed restriction; it is within the 15 foot resrtriction. The lift, however, is beyond the 15 foot mark. The legal eagles among you will ask if the deed restriction specifically prohibits boat lifts. They are not mentioned.

So, here is my current dilemna: my attorney feels that we will need to provide an expert witness who can testify that a lift is not part of the dock. It is considered a boat accessory rather than a dock accessory. Also, to testify to the need of a performance powerboat needing to be lifted rather than bottom painted.

Anyone know of such a person? Also, please help me cover all the bases - have I missed a defense ?

Thanks for you help.
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Old 09-04-2002, 05:02 PM
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What is your neighbor asking for? The removal of the lift? What are they alleging you did illegally? I don't really see a case as you obtained all the required permits and jumped through all the hoops. Usually they will drop the case through mediation or with some cash "compensation".

Try contacting one of the MAJOR dock and/or lift manufacturers. Especially the one that you used. They may be able to provide expert testimony. Once again, there will be some "compensation".

Instead of trying to argue why you need the lift, why not PROVE that you obtained all the necessary permits and that it's legal. If the neighbor has a problem with the appearance they should be filing a complaint with the local building inspector. My guess is that they did and hit a dead end. Something to look into as it would be a public record.

Last edited by Cord; 09-04-2002 at 05:06 PM.
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Old 09-04-2002, 05:12 PM
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The fact that the township and inspectors issued permits and/or approved the construction should not defeat the terms of the deed restriction. The deed is filed among the county land records to provide everyone with notice that the property comes with certain use restrictions. If you merely submitted plans that met local building/environmental codes without reference to any deed restrictions, how were the proper authorities to know that your property had any restrictions? I agree with your counsel that an expert is necessary to testify to the fact that a lift is merely a removable accessory rather than a permanent fixture. Someone with at least 10 years experience in assembling, repairing and removing lifts would probably qualify as an expert. If you get past the issue of the lift as an accessory and not a fixture, the issue of bottom painting is moot.
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Old 09-04-2002, 05:24 PM
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ask and you shall receive thnx phknlawyer
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Old 09-04-2002, 05:41 PM
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How far past 15' is the lift? Is the neighbor concerned that it may cause a hazard or is he just trying to find a reason to have you take it down? Does it interfere with his view? If so, propose to him that you will plant some reaaly big evergreens to block it from his view, and his water view. That might fix him!
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Old 09-04-2002, 09:33 PM
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No! Plant that dam#n bamboo [email protected]! It grows like wild. Will make a virtual green fence inside of a month - over 12' high. Then, when all the ruckus dies down, you can just cut it off and pour roundup down the necks of the stalks (you gotta do this three or four times before the booger will stop trying to grow).

Don't forget to countersue him for legal fees and emotional damage from the embarrassment and mental anguish. Jeesh, it's a shame that you gotta fight a wuss fight with wuss ammo...
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Old 09-04-2002, 09:40 PM
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You know what the problem is Your boat is cool fast and dont have the words BAYLINER on it like his
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Old 09-04-2002, 09:42 PM
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Thanks for the responses.

Phknlwyr: The DEP and local building office were notified by my neighbors' attorney of the deed restriction. The DEP informed us that they do not pay attention to private deed restrictions, the "submerged aquatic vegetation" laws supersede the deed restrictions according to the DEP project review officer. The local building inspector stated that his interest essentially stops at the bulkhead and further, that since the lift was not part of the dock, he was not interested in it.

I will contact the lift manufacturer for some guidance as to the existence of an expert.

We have also filed a request (demand ?) that they withdraw the complaint on the grounds that restrictions are read very strictly and since the deed restriction does not mention lifts, it does not prohibit them. Also, the lift is not part of the dock, and the restriction specifically mentions docks and boathouses. Subsequently, their case has no merit. We have therefore asked that the judge award my costs if the case is found in my favor.

Am I missing anything ?

Ken: The dock is made up of a pier extending 15 feet from the bulkhead and a 30 foot "L" section that is within the 15 foot restriction. The lift is is within a 15 X 15 square adjacent the "L" section. So, the pier plus the lift and it's pilings equals 30 feet from the bulkhead.

According to discussions with other neighbors who are not directly affected by this, my neighbors' real beef is the view. The issue of a navigational hazard was dismissed by the DEP prior to issuing a permit.

Thanks again for you help.

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Old 09-04-2002, 10:30 PM
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You built the pier to dock the boat, right? The lift doesn't change the position of the boat does it. I mearly lifts the boat to avoid damage from wave action. I know lots of boats on the open bay that lift for protection as thier bottoms are painted.

Are you on the open bay or in a lagoon. Is the lift a mechanical lift or one of the floating types.

Photos would help.

What if the DEP made you go out 25 feet to reach 4' of water?
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Old 09-04-2002, 10:35 PM
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can you please give me some more info....what town is it in, who installed the lift, who is the manufacturer of the lift? I went through a similar thing when I was looking at buying a vacant lagoon lot on LBI......

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