Unite to Defeat APCO’s Bogus Claims

posted Jan 24, 2015, 2:01 PM by Site administrator


    Many believe that an Appalachian Power Company (APCO) "Permitted" dock is an advantage and provides a guarantee of continued recreational use. But the opposite is in fact true, because APCO's (non-federally approved) "Permit" is revocable at APCO's discretion and limits the ways you can access the lake for recreational purposes. By signing their "Permit" you agree to become a licensee of APCO and you are obligated to follow all Shoreline Management Plan rules, all provisions of their license and all future licenses and amendments thereto. 

    When you purchase a new or existing home you are "grandfathered" against changing State and County regulations and when you sell your property you cannot be forced to comply with the latest version of regulations. APCO claims their ”rules” for your dock are different. Even if you have a valid APCO permit, they can unilaterally change their “rules” or reinterpret them and make you or your buyer tear out part or all of the dock; or APCO can decide your dock is no longer in the public interest and direct you to remove it. FERC has an outstanding order for Smith Mountain and Leesville Lakes that states: "eventually all docks will have to conform to SMP regulations," and FERC will eventually direct APCO to make it so. 

    Who would buy a house on Smith Mountain Lake if they could lose their dock because APCO changed its "rules.” But APCO insists it can change the “rules” and order you to either modify or remove a non-compliant dock. This could change a lakefront home to a lake-view home. Realtors at the lake regularly see buyers backing out of sales contracts, resulting in lower property values as a direct result of the APCO "Permit" problem. What is the risk to our land values and our property rights? Here is what attorney George Vogel II, with decades of experience in lake land issues, said in his Feb. 23, 2005 comments to FERC: 

“... Regardless of the manner in which AEP acquired the land, and the documentation regarding the ownership of the land above and below the 800 foot contour line, I believe it has been the opinion of attorneys and courts over the past 40 years that owners of property adjoining the lake have vested property rights in the land below the 800 foot contour line adjoining their property and to the use of the waters of Smith Mountain Lake.  However, the position of AEP at this time is that adjoining landowners do not have any vested property rights or easements to the land below the 800 foot contour line, but merely have a revocable license. In my opinion this conclusion is wrong and contrary to the documentation of ownership of the land below the 800 foot contour line. ... The problem with revocable licenses is that they expire upon a conveyance of the property by the owner to whom the license is issued, and at the whim of AEP can be revoked at any time. The waterfront rights on Smith Mountain Lake and the right to construct boat docks is a very important element in the value of the owners property. A lot without access to the lake, even though it may have a view, may bring $40,000.00 to $50,000.00, whereas a similar lot with lake access and the right to construct a boat dock may bring $400,000.00 to $500,000.00.... In my opinion AEP is using the Shoreline Management Plan and the licensing process to acquire rights to the property adjoining Smith Mountain Lake that they did not acquire in their purchases and condemnation proceedings 40 years ago."

    For those that think the outcome of this lawsuit will not affect them -- wait until you try to sell your property and AEP notifies you your dock or landscaping is not in compliance with its latest SMP interpretation. Recently a couple's home was foreclosed upon after AEP misclassified their waterfront as a wetland and they were denied a dock permit. Others have been forced to plant thousands of dollars of shrubs and trees and/or modify their dock to comply with the latest regulations or new interpretations before APCO would "allow" them to transfer a dock permit to the new buyer. Several have been forced to remove beaches and retaining walls that were built years before APCO began its shoreline crusade. Many more have spent thousands re-surveying their property to prove their dock was properly placed. Recently one property owner was forced to move his dock pilings two inches during construction -- yes, two inches, at an additional cost of $2,500! APCO does NOT have any federal authority or the necessary property right to demand these changes or to impact the sale of real estate. 

We are all Defendants and We Must Unite to Defeat APCO’s Bogus Claims