2002-04-18 / Front Page

Bergeron follows Appeals Court in Gerrish road end suit ruling

By Glenn Schicker

Citing previous Michigan Court of Appeals decisions as precedent, 34th Circuit Judge Ronald Bergeron recently ruled that back lotters in Gerrish Township’s Woodlawn subdivision may not picnic, sunbathe, lounge or permanently moor boats at road ends in the subdivision.
Bergeron ruled after a Dec. 21 trial in a lawsuit filed in 1995 by the Higgins Lake Property Owners Association against Gerrish Township. Although the 1902 Woodlawn plat states subdivision streets and alleys are “dedicated to the use of the public,” the HLPOA asked the court to prohibit picnicking, lounging and permanent boat mooring at road ends.
Bergeron affirmed that the plat dedication gives back lotters access to the lake and the right to maintain public docks at the road ends. He added that the fact that the roads extend to the shore of Higgins Lake is “a significant indication of the plattors’ intent.” Bergeron added, “One has to ask what value these back lots would have if the owners/occupiers of them have no or minimal lake privileges...If these developers had not wanted to provide reasonable lake privileges to the owners and occupiers of the back lots and the public, they could have created more lakefront riparain lots.”
However, Bergeron said the Court of Appeals, in a 2000 ruling in a case involving Lyon Township’s Evergreen Park subdivision, “concluded...that the dedicators intended that nonriparian lot owners cannot sunbathe, picnic and lounge” at road ends.” Bergeron said he “must conclude” the same. That decision also applied to boat mooring.
Bergeron declined to issue an injunction against the prohibited uses, as requested by the HLPOA. He said it is unnecessary, since the parties are bound by his ruling on how the road ends may be used.
He said the HLPOA presented evidence “that there have been some of these objectionable uses at some of these road ends,” but “in view of the evidence that was received at trial, it is not appropriate to issue an injunction against all defendants, the public and the world,” Bergeron wrote.

Affected are Hyslip, Chicago, Washington, St. Louis, Muskegon and St. Lawrence Avenues. Hyslip has since been renamed West Pine Drive.

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