WINONA LAKE — The monthly meeting of Winona Lake’s Town Council was attended by more local residents than usual Tuesday night, June 18, and the potential for some shakeup on a waterfront area in the town was the reason.
Syracuse-based Attorney Stephen Snyder, representing two land owners on Esplanade Street and Auditorium Boulevard, petitioned the council to vacate a portion of those roads’ right of way. The board approved the vacation, but not before some spirited discussion on what the vacation could ultimately mean.
“The vacation is not technically all of that area,” said Snyder. “It is an area that would preserve the right of way of Esplanade as it turns into Auditorium.”
Snyder said that some precedent to this proposal came in a 1993 court case.
“The court judgement determined that those lakefront owners owned all that property out to the water’s edge,” he said. “What we’re proposing to do is vacate that excess right of way and have it declared to be owned by the people who truly own it now, subject to the right of way, again preserving a 30-foot right of way for Esplanade over that portion of Auditorium that’s vacated so it simply continues around as it does.”
Snyder said this morning that the vacation of the proposed area would allow the homeowners policies of the adjacent landowners, Robert and Amy Delp at 905 Esplanade Street and Steven and Rita Smith at 413 Auditorium Boulevard to handle any liability issues that could result from accidents on the public right of way. However, the proposed measure eliminates public right of way on the water’s edge, where some area residents have installed piers and docked boats.
“Doesn’t it impact two to three families who’ve had their piers and boats there for 35 to 40 years?” asked Auditorium Boulevard resident Janet Volkers. “Winona Lake is our children’s heritage. I think it would be a terrible injustice to anybody else involved who has had their pier there for so long. In a world that has become so intolerant, can’t we be tolerant?”
“Technically, there is nothing that the public can do at the end of a right of way at the water’s edge because they don’t have any riparian rights,” said Snyder, who explained that those are rights held by adjacent land owners. “The public merely has the right to traverse that right of way, not to place any piers at the end of it, to dock their boats.”
Snyder said if the adjacent land owners wish to have the piers removed at some point, they could petition the Natural Resources Commission.
The vacation would reduce the public right of way down to the pavement of the roads as well as approximately five feet on either side of the pavement.
Bruce Shaffner recused himself from voting on the vacation and Tecy Banta abstained because she was undecided. The motion passed with Denny Duncan, Heather James and Rick Swaim voting in favor of the vacation.