Lawsuit claims island is public

Environmental group says residents have been using Dobbins beaches for decades

July 12, 2008|By Karen Shih | Karen Shih,Sun Reporter

In a new twist in a battle for beach access between local boaters and an island owner in the Magothy River, the local environmental association has filed a lawsuit in an attempt to force the owner to negotiate.

The Magothy River Association alleges in the suit filed Thursday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that Dobbins Island is public land, because residents have been using the beaches there for decades. David L. Clickner Sr., the association claims, has reduced public access since buying the 7-acre island in 2004. The lawsuit also argues that a fence erected by the owners in 2006 encroaches on public land.

"It's very popular to take your boats and go swimming," said MRA President Paul Spadaro. "It's one of the few areas up and down the bay where if you have a family," kids can play in relatively shallow water.

The association must prove that residents have used the land, uninterrupted, for more than 20 years and that it was not done with permission of the owner, making it public use, said the association's lawyer, Ann M. Fligsten.

This isn't the first time the MRA has tried to dissuade Clickner from using his land. It unsuccessfully appealed a variance that allowed him to build a 200-foot-long pier and is trying to appeal a variance that allows him to build a driveway. In March 2007, it filed a lawsuit that was dismissed by a judge, though he gave the association a chance to amend the suit. It chose not to try to work things out with Clickner, Fligsten said.

Spadaro hopes the lawsuit will spur Clickner to sell the island because Spadaro now says he has "secured funds" to buy it. He would not disclose whose money it was or how much was being offered.

But Clickner said this is just a new attempt "to get the island for free" and that the MRA has made no offer.

"To the current date, I haven't even heard him offer that he has one dollar," he said.

Clickner is confident that his rights to the island will not be changed. Previous owners tried for years to keep boaters from encroaching on their property, he said, so the MRA's claim that their use has been uninterrupted for decades is not true.

In addition, he built his fence with information from licensed surveyors and has notified the Maryland Department of the Environment of the location of his fence. It has not contacted him about any infringement on state property, he said.

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