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'Keyhole' lawsuit dismissed

September 18, 2013 - A water-use "keyholing" lawsuit has been dismissed for now.

According to a public statement issued by Independence Township, 52-2 District Court dismissed the case without prejudice, but can be reinitiated if the township chooses.

"In the summer of 2012, members of the Deer Lake Property Owners Association (DLPOA) lodged complaints with the township concerning the docking of boats on Deer Lake by the Deer Lake Knolls," according to Independence Township Attorney Steve Joppich.

After the DLPOA complained, township officials offered to meet with the Knolls about property history and boat docking. The township couldn't confirm the Knolls' was not violating a "keyholing" ordinance and issued a citation, which the residents disputed.

Because of sketchy laws and both associations threatening to bring legal action against the township, the officials decided to resolve the issue in court.

"This placed the township in a position of having to initiate proceedings against the Knolls Homeowners Association in the 52-2 District Court based on a municipal civil infraction ticket issued by the township for a violation of the township's Zoning Ordinance establishing special land use approval for boat docking by off-lake homeowners," said Joppich.

Knolls residents said the outlot in question had been used for docking watercraft for 47 years.

The homeowners also cited a study in the 1980's concluding the outlot was used as an access point for over 20 different types of watercraft on the lake.

DLPOA homeowner Fred Davis said the township should have followed laws established by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).

He added that the Knolls should be forced to follow the ordinance and rules.

Joppich said the township filed a "Declaratory Judgment Action" to ask the court to resolve questions between the two associations.

Township officials said they filed the action to avoid more lawsuits.

Staff writer
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