by Linda Russell
3:52 PM PDT, June 6, 2012
SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- Approval of a new federal project boundary at the Lake of the Ozarks means about 1,500 homes and other structures are now safe from being torn down. Ameren Missouri is pleased, but lakefront residents say the problem is far from resolved.
Like many Lake of the Ozarks residents, Marsha and Sparky Sharp were recently told their property was inside the boundary that Ameren Missouri controls. "Many people read it, and I don't think it sunk in," says Marsha Sharp.
On Tuesday, federal regulators approved Ameren's request to adjust the boundary. "These homes will no longer be within the boundary. There's no more threat for removal," says Jeff Green of Ameren Missouri.
But the Sharps and many others say that's only the beginning. "All we really know at this time is we have a property that we can't possibly sell," says Sharp.
"The new boundary agreement is 662 feet. That elevation runs somewhere through the middle of the Sharps' house, and there's a carve-out for any existing structures below that level, but the Sharps say that still doesn't mean they actually own the property on which they live. "There's the value of the property right there- the lakefront itself," Sharp says.
Ameren, formerly Union Electric, says it has owned land surrounding the lake, in some areas up to 678 feet, since the 1920s. "In the areas where we owned to higher elevations before the boundary changed, Ameren retains ownership of that property," says Green.
"All I have is their word telling me that they own our property. If in fact there is validity to that, why didn't it come up long before now?" says Sharp.
Ameren plans to file documents, called Estoppel Certificates, in all four lake counties, clarifying which land it owns, and what rights residents have. "They have an easement for improvements, and we're going to clarify with these documents that those dwellings are included in those improvements that they can have and maintain and add to and replace if anything should happen to those in the future," Green says.
The Sharps don't want to just use the land, but own it as they believed all along. "Why was this not something that was public knowledge long before this time?" Sharp says.
The Sharps filed a claim with their title insurance three months ago, but have not gotten a response. Five lawsuits have also been filed against Ameren.
Green says, "I think we're going to continue our dialogue with property owners where there are specific cases where ther are issues that we need to deal with. We're definitely going to be open to working with those property owners. We don't want anyone to have a problem with transferring their titles, so if there's things we can do in the future to help them, we're going to do that."