Woman trying to sell house says her deed designates path to beach
A dispute between neighbors over access to Lake Michigan off Country Club Beach Road in the Town of Belgium centers on what is private access and who owns the land.
Lucy McCue, whose house at 5111 Country Club Beach Rd. is for sale, said her neighbor to the east, Erwin Dohmen, who has a lakefront home, has confronted potential buyers and her broker, preventing them from using an access path she said she’s used for seven years and tells them to use another access farther away.
However, when contacted Wednesday, Dohmen said he did not confront anyone and that McCue is using private vacant land north of his house for lake access.
“Someone in a car stopped me when I was at my mailbox and asked if that was private property and I said, ‘Yes, it is,’” Dohmen said.
“I told that to Lucy and said, ‘Don’t ever expect me to lie for you.’ I can’t tolerate lying. The access that everyone uses is between two private drives.”
McCue presented copies of the subdivision plat to town officials that showed three paths to the beach designated for subdivision residents.
“The one I use is almost directly across from my house and next to Mr. Dohmen,” she said. “It’s not practical to carry a kayak to the other access. He told me he owns the property, but now I realize he doesn’t own it.”
According to the developer’s agreement, when the Country Club Beach subdivision was created, the access paths were to be owned and maintained by subdivision residents.
Dohmen said a drainage area south of his home is shown as private access on a 1940 plat he showed to McCue.
“No one asked permission to use that, and I haven’t tried to keep anyone off it,” he said. “It’s a narrow strip and if they can use it without going on private property, that’s fine with me. But if Lucy wants it marked, she should go to the entire subdivision.”
McCue said there is no association to enforce or maintain the access path, but she is willing to do the work.
“I know where it is. I found the markers to the north and south,” McCue said. “I was told by the register of deeds that this is a town issue, which is why I came here.”
Louise Dermehl, who owns the vacant land north of Dohmen, said she gave McCue permission to use her land temporarily, but doesn’t want that to be permanent.
Supr. Bill Janeshek said the town acquired Country Club Beach Road when it paved and widened it about 1986.
The access paths are along drainage areas designated as navigable streams by the Department of Natural Resources, he said.
Supr. James Blick said he believes the access issue is a private matter and the town should not get involved.
“I disagree. I would argue that we own the access points because we have to keep the drainage areas open, and we should mark all of them,” Janeshek said.
Dermehl said the paths are not public access but restricted to subdivision residents.
“I’m not looking to have something posted or made wider. I just want clear access to the lake and not have the new owner go through what I have,” McCue said.
She sought permission from the town to trim trees in the access path to make it easier to carry a kayak.
“The town is in a tricky spot because we don’t have jurisdiction over private property,” Zoning Administrator Charles Parks said. “Maybe to help Lucy we can acknowledge that the access is there and ask our attorney for an opinion on what we can and cannot do.”
Town Chairman Tom Winker said he will ask the attorney to have a written opinion for the Town Board’s Oct. 7 meeting.
McCue said she has offers to purchase that are contingent on resolution of the access issue. Waiting a month may cause some potential buyers to back out, she said.
Town officials said the access points on the plat should be verified by a survey and that may satisfy potential buyers.
McCue said she will order and pay for a survey.
Dohmen said he believes access is a private issue that should be resolved by the subdivision or through legal means if necessary.