New York Supreme Court Grants Summary Judgment and Holds Dock Did Not Violate Restrictive Covenant

The New York Supreme Court, Warren County, recently granted a motion for summary judgment and held that an articulating dock did not violate a lakefront community’s restrictive covenant.  See Tedeschi v Lake George Park Com’n, 56 Misc. 3d 1215(A) (Sup. Ct. 2017).  In the case, plaintiff and defendants each own property in a lakefront community.  Owners in the community own an undivided interest in the community’s common areas, including a beach, boardwalk, and main dock, and are subject to various restrictive covenants, including one that they “shall not erect or move any building or obstruction on” said common areas.  Some of the owners also individually own boat slips at the main dock, from which they typically add finger docks extending perpendicularly from the main dock.  Defendants received permission from the community association to add an articulating dock, which appears similar to the other finger docks, but is attached to the main dock via a “lift” that allows defendants to bring the dock into the air and out of the water during the winter.  Plaintiff brought this action alleging that defendants’ articulating dock violated the restrictive covenant because it was a prohibited “building or obstruction” on the main docks.  The parties cross-moved for summary judgment.

The Court denied plaintiff’s motion, granted defendants’, and dismissed the action.  First, the Court held the law favors the free and unencumbered use of real property, and covenants restricting use are strictly construed against those seeking to enforce them.  Second, the Court held that the lift on the articulating dock was not a “‘building’ in any reasonable, common or normal sense in which that word is used.”  Third, the Court found that the dock was attached to the side of the main dock and did not restrict access or use of the dock and, therefore, it was not an “obstruction.”  Finally, the covenant did not contain any language indicating that the restriction on obstructions included visual obstructions, as plaintiff alleged here.  Accordingly, plaintiff’s claim was dismissed.

For a copy of the decision, please contact Michael O’Donnell at modonnell@riker.com, Michael Crowley at mcrowley@riker.com or Clarissa Gomez at cgomez@riker.com.