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Madison Twp. Lakefront Owners, North Perry Village & Engineering Firm Reach Settlement

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By Simon Husted, The News-Herald

Friday, December 5, 2014

After suffering from an eroding lakefront for five years, Madison Township homeowners along Lake Erie have permanent relief in sight beginning in 2015.

The party of 12 plaintiffs and the two defendants, North Perry Village and Detroit-based engineering firm SmithGroupJJR, filed a settlement agreement Nov. 25 in Lake County Common Pleas Court. Details of that settlement were outlined in a phone interview this week with the plaintiff’s attorneys, David Ondrey and Dale Markowitz of Chardon law firm Thrasher, Dinsmore & Dolan.

Madison Township land owners filed a lawsuit in June 2012, claiming that a $4.5 million marina built in North Perry’s Townline Park trapped sand that would’ve naturally washed eastward onto their shoreways. Without the sand, the landowners saw their bluffs erode away. SmithGroupJJR was the engineering firm on the marina built in 2009.

North Perry Village Solicitor Joe Gurley told the News-Herald Dec. 5 that he can speak broadly about the settlement but wouldn’t be able to share exact details until next week as he works with the village’s insurance company.

Gurley and the plaintiffs’ attorneys said SmithGroupJJR is paying for improvements to both the marina and the shorelines along their plaintiff’s 13 parcels.

Reached by phone this week, SmithGroupJJR spokeswoman Sandra Knight referred inquires about details of the settlement to village officials in North Perry.

“We are pleased to report that engineering plans are being developed to provide continued improvements to the private shorelines to the east of Townline Park, with construction to be completed by late summer of 2015,” Knight said in a statement.

Ondrey and Markowitz broke down the improvements as follow:

  • A new layer of stones will be installed along the plaintiffs’ bluffs.
  • Sand from outside the area will be moved and nourished on the plaintiff’s shorelines.
  • The marina’s bin wall will be extended to keep the trapped sand west of the structure and not inside. This will allow an easier time for contractors to dredge the sand and move it east of the marina.

North Perry has been contracting sand dredging at the marina since 2011, moving it east of the marina to renourish the plaintiff’s shorelines. That agreement won’t be changing because of the settlement.

“They’re always going to have to keep dredging as long as the marina is there,” Markowitz said.

Asked about the marina’s future, Gurley said the village is going to do what they’re required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

North Perry Finance Director Lynn Kary told The News-Herald that the cost of dredging varies year-to-year because of variables like the weather.

This year, the village spent $153,000 on five dredging projects.

Ondrey and Markowitz said it is unclear how the cost of dredging will be affected when the bin wall is extended.

In addition to shoreline and marina improvements, the engineering firm also paid money to the plaintiffs in the case as well as North Perry Village, said Ondrey and Markowitz. They said it was a “significant amount of money,” but declined to disclose figures because they lacked the authority from their clients.

Although these improvements change the picture for the Madison Township homeowners, this was a “terrible” year for their clients’ beaches, said Ondrey.

“For the most part, they are gone,” Ondrey said.

“That’s why they’re getting a new beach built,” added Markowitz. “It’s a great lesson about the consequences of building into Lake Erie.”