Lake Placid boathouse lawsuit heads to Florida

LAKE PLACID – The town of North Elba has hired legal counsel in Florida to pursue an ongoing court battle.

The dispute between the town and William H. Grimditch Jr. dates to 2010 when Grimditch built two boathouses on Lake Placid without the required permits from the town. The town then sued to have the buildings torn down.

Grimditch died last year at his home in Vero Beach, Florida. The town is now pursuing his estate.

“We filed a claim in the probate proceeding down in Florida,” town Attorney Ronald Briggs said. “Sometime thereafter, there was an objection to the claim.”

A statement of the claim was submitted to the Indian River County Court on June 19 and the objection to the claim was filed on July 18, according to court records from the Indian River County Courthouse in Florida.

The town of North Elba wants to receive counsel fees, costs, expenses and fines from the Grimditch estate. The case has dragged on for four years, so litigation costs could be in the thousands of dollars. From the start of the suit, the town requested to be repaid for litigation costs.

Troy Hafner is representing the Grimditch estate in Florida. He could not be reached for comment.

Essex County Supreme Court Judge Richard Meyer first sided with the Grimditch family in 2011, saying that the town could not regulate boathouses, but that decision was overturned by the state Supreme Court Appellate Division’s Third Judicial Department. In 2013, the family met with the town at a board meeting and offered to pay a $40,000 fine, in the hope of keeping the boathouses, but the town rejected the offer. Later in September of the same year, a Supreme Court justice was poised to rule in favor of the town, but a decision was delayed due to claims by the family that the town “selectively enforced” building permits by allowing other boathouses to be built without a permit.

“In sum, the town and the individual plaintiffs have carried their burden to show their entitlement to summary judgement holding the boathouses to be illegal structures built in violation of the State Building Code and the Land Use Code,” Supreme Court Justice Thomas Buchanan wrote about the case. “The sole issue preventing the Court from granting summary judgement at this time and issuing an injunction directing the removal of the two boathouses is Defendants’ unresolved claim of selective enforcement.”

The case currently waits in limbo for a decision to be made. Briggs said a Supreme Court ruling could come “any day.” If Buchanan rules against the Grimditch estate, the decision could be appealed.