Appeals court decides marina owns contested underwater land

The Lower Saranac Marina on Crescent Bay is seen in November 2017. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

SARANAC LAKE — Development at the Saranac Lake Marina could soon be underway as a court decision from earlier this year was overturned — but that decision could be reanalyzed one final time.

The decision frees the marina to build larger, covered docks, which a group of neighbors opposes — so much so that they bought a piece of lake bottom out from under where the docks would be built.

The state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department, overturned a decision by the state Supreme Court in Franklin County. The appeals court said a parcel of underwater land that the neighbors bought in January 2017 rightfully belonged to the marina by way of adverse possession. The neighbors bought the property under the corporate name Acme of Saranac LLC.

The court said it found enough evidence that the marina and those who had owned it in the past had worked on the land long enough — over 10 years is needed by state law — and that the marina is working to improve the land and structures upon it, and therefore decided that the 11 submerged acres in question should rightfully belong to the marina.

Acme of Saranac bought the land from Donald Russell Moreau’s descendant, his daughter Dee Dee, who is a real estate agent in Nevada. Mike Damp, a partner and manager of the marina, had previously reached out to Dee Dee, who didn’t even realize she owned the property. However, the Moreau estate sold the property to the LLC instead.

“I am relieved that we can now move on and get the necessary approval from the Adirondack Park Agency to build a state-of-the-art marina that will be a great asset to the community and Lower Saranac Lake,” Damp said in a press release sent by his lawyer, Matt Norfolk. “The marina will be using green building techniques and aimed to be LEEDS Certified, and solar powered for the entire marina facility. We have the potential of creating 20 to 25 jobs with the marina improved and expanded.”

The legal journey, however, might not be over. The decision could be appealed to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, if it decides to hear the case.

“I am reluctant to comment on pending cases,” said Jeffery Siege, a lawyer for O’Connell and Arnowitz, a law firm in Albany that represented Acme of Saranac. “All I will say is that the marina has a long road ahead of it, and this matter is far from over.”