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Buckeye Lake homeowners surprised ODNR says part of their property is on state land

BUCKEYE LAKE, OH (WCMH) -- The Ohio Department of Natural Resources recently completed a survey of property lines along the Buckeye Lake dam and say a dozen owners have parts of their home or property over state lines.

Neighbors tell NBC4 after two years of dam construction just out their back windows, 12 of them received letters from the state giving them time to remove the encroachment or meet with the state about what can be done.

Steve Schilling got one of those letters about a major encroachment on state land with part of his house, steps and awning four feet over.

"No one out here, I guarantee you no one did it on purpose, no one came out here and said, 'I am going to be on state land.' No one thought they were on state land," Schilling said.

ODNR is offering two options; the homeowner can remove the encroachment within 12 months, or sign a nonrenewable lease on the land which gives them time to make corrections.

Schilling said as many as 212 homeowners have some kind of encroachment, and ODNR Spokesman Matt Eiselstein said he anticipates more letters will be sent. He said he does not yet know how many, because he said this is an ongoing process.

Eiselstein said eight homeowners were notified because their property extended over an area where a new sidewalk will be installed. Four others were impeding emergency lanes onto the dam.

"We will be happy to schedule meetings with homeowners if they contact us within two weeks of receiving the letter," Eiselstein said.

Schilling was asked about his plans with his home extending over the state line? "I would just have to tear the house down. That is really not an option," he said. Schilling said he has live beside the dam since 1965.

Doug Stewart also lives alongside the dam; he is on a citizen's advisory board with ODNR and said he understood the old dam property would not be an issue after the new dam was built.

"We felt like the state should lease this to us or deed it to us with the restrictions or whatever where all those encroachments would be null and void,"

Eiselstein said they'll meet with owners and are willing to work out compromises.  But owners need to make decisions within a couple of weeks.

Babette Joseph, the widow of the former Columbus Police Chief Dwight Joseph, sent a letter to ODNR Director James Zehringer asking for leniency.

"Several times we replaced the sidewalk in front of our house at our own expense. ODNR did not maintain their property, so it fell upon the homeowner to maintain it," she wrote. "I am living on a very limited income and do not have the resources to tear down property, that will decrease the value of my home," Joseph wrote.

Schilling said homeowners on the North Bank are an average of 67.5 years old, and are on a fixed income.

He said he wishes Governor Kasich would intercede and say what's fair is fair. "We love the lake; we love ODNR, we just don't understand what is going on here."

The state expects to have the reconstructed dam finished this year with a sidewalk and emergency access road on top of the old and reconstructed dam.


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