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City Council Moves Ahead With Dock Ordinance

By Staff | Nov 2, 2010

Emmetsburg City Council approved the second consideration of an ordinance amendment to public lake access regulations. The amendment includes an appeal procedure.

Action on the ordinance came on Monday, Oct. 25, after Father Clem Currans addressed the council as a citizen. As a property owner on the southwest corner of Five Island Lake, Fr. Currans said he would some day like to have a dock. He was concerned whether or not he would be allowed to install a dock or if someone else would be able to have a dock in front of his property without his consent.

He put several questions before the council, including how many docks are allowed and who decides how many and where docks will be placed. He also asked if a person must have a boat to have a dock. These issues need clarification, he said.

City Administrator John Bird addressed the audience, noting that when the Horton family deeded that property to the city they reserved the right to have riparian rights. Addressing Fr. Currans, he said those riparian rights grant him unencumbered access to the lake, the right to draw water from the lake, and the right to place a dock on the lake. He added that as the owner of property in this area, Fr. Currans has the right to place a dock on the lake, but that does not give him the right to prohibit others from having a dock.

Public access areas on Five Island Lake include the shoreline around the golf course and club house, including First Island and the camping area, mostly owned by the state of Iowa; from the railroad trestle to Sewell park; an area outside the city limits which has public lake access, but no dock permits are issued; the eastern-most lot at Rockport; and the beach area on the south end of the lake.

Mary Brown, who also owns property on the southwest point of the lake, questioned if her area is considered a public lake access area. Bird said that the city owns the strip of land bordering the lake in that area, pointing out that the Horton family deeded 30-feet from the high water mark into the property.

Answering the question about whether or not Fr. Currans would have to own a boat to put up a dock, Bird said riparian rights in that area do not stipulate that Currans must own a boat in order to install a dock.

Emmetsburg City Code stipulates that public dock permit holders must have two applicants, but this does not hold with property owners who have riparian rights in the Horton area.

The third consideration of the ordinance, which includes an appeal procedure, will be heard at the Nov. 8 meeting of Emmetsburg City Council. Meeting time is 12 noon.