Numerous people over the years have asked what is the Blue Line and how does it apply to DeRuyter Lake. In order to understand how it impacted DeRuyter Reservoir, it was felt that the best way was to go to the person who was most knowledgeable and instrumental from the beginning up to the final settlement with the New York State. What follows is based on lengthy interviews with Chuck Beeler and presents a story that all DeRuyter Lake Association (DLA) members should be proud of.
At its fundamental level, it is a line designating the high water level of waters owned by New York State. Over a hundred years ago, the state thought it was necessary to protect the people of New York State from lawsuits due to flooding by water bodies it owned. These bodies of water were included the Erie Canal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erie_Canal as well as the numerous reservoirs it constructed to supply water to the canal. DeRuyter Reservoir was one such reservoir. Therefore, state engineers designated these high water lines with blue ink on its maps; it’s that simple and thus began the makings of a never ending dispute between upland property owners and New York State.
The Blue line was forgotten for over a hundred years as the state blossomed into the Empire State. Then in the 1940’s, a property dispute took place between two property owners, Eddie Lipton and Winfred/Billy Bruce which included ‘Sunny Point” and property encompassing camps 283 - 294 and the land on the east side of East Lake Rd called Wins Inn which was a bar (now Caputo farm). The Lawsuit was known as Lipton vs. Bruce and during the case, it was determined that neither owned the land that it actually belonged to NY.
At the time New York State didn’t realize they owned it, because it was forgotten over the past hundred years, so the state sent out letter to all residents that they would have to move their camps off of state property. Obviously, people were shocked/upset because they always thought they bought the camp AND land at the time. Chuck Beeler remembers his grandmother getting a letter from the state.
A good example of what ensued was George Vaas, who’s grandson recently sold camp 206, originally owned a camp next to the inlet on South Lake Rd., currently camp 55 which was on blue line property. The state came in and took over the property and the ultimately sold it to a state employee. Mr. Vaas never stopped complaining (rightfully so) about what the state did.
At sometime later, the state sent letters to people saying they would issue permits to camp owners whose buildings were on blue line property at so many cents per foot. The permits were to be renewed every year. In addition, the state wanted all property to pay annually for a dock permit. Enter the DeRuyter Lake Association (DLA). The Association hired a lawyer, Lee Carroll and his partner State Senator Lawrence Rulison. Lee Carroll advised the membership to NOT buy a permit for the property and docks that were on blue line property. The other Madison County lake property owners did buy the permits.
Enter Chuck Beeler. Senator Rulison passed a bill that would give the upland owner the right of first refusal so the state could not sell the property without the current owner being given a chance to buy it. The George Vaas situation would never have occurred. Lee Carroll then told the town that they were charging owners taxes for land they didn’t own and wanted adjustments made. The Town ultimately did, but then just raised the rates (sound familiar).
The state refused to sell the land to the current owners through the years. Paul Caywood, Harold Maine, Chuck Beeler and Lee Carroll traveled to Albany numerous times, at their own expense, to lobby the General Services Administration (GSA) to relent and sell the land. At one contentious meeting, the state threatened to bulldoze all the camps. Lee Carroll responded with, how you are going to get the bulldozers across the upland owners’ property to get to the blue line property.
At another contentious meeting the state made up a term never heard of before to handle properties that had buildings partially over the blue line. Out of whole cloth, the state made up the term ‘drip line”. This term/phrase was never heard of before and upon further inquiry, the state defined it as the depression of the ground caused by rain falling off the roof, seriously. Following a lengthy giggling session, our negotiators respectfully declined the states offer.
Imagine the situation, of which there were many, that once you exit a door that was facing the lake, you would be on state property and possibly be charged with trespass. Obviously, our negotiators balked at this offer also. Ultimately with Chuck Beeler and others persistence over ten long frustrating years, the state finally agreed in 1970 to offer the property to the upland owners.
Connie Skeele and Bob Conway, both real estate agents at the time worked up a price for the state to use. At numerous Lake Association meetings, members gave a ton of grief to Chuck Beeler and Lee Carroll regarding the price. In fact many didn’t even know they were using state property. Many were always under the assumption that they owned all the way to the high water line. They did not. Many members didn’t want to participate and so stated this to Chuck and Lee. They both kept negotiating with GSA over a number of years to get a reduced price. Ultimately they were successful and a price of 39 cents a square foot (we believe) was arrived at. For those camps with minimal amount of land, a $250.00 minimum price was set. In addition, the upland owners would have up to 10 years to buy the property.
At many of the meetings, Chuck and Lee were “scolded” by some members but in fact, the deal was actually protecting the people’s property value. For instance, most of the property on the peninsula was all blue line and consequently, they were not paying tax on it. Once they bought it, they would go on the tax rolls. They were not happy and they made it known. Eventually they were convinced to buy it because some during the intervening years could not get clear title in order to sell their camp. In any event, everyone had up to ten years to buy the property and then the state was going to put it up for public sale. This presented the very real possibility that the upland owners could be prevented by someone from accessing the lake. Needless to say, eventually most bought their blue line property thanks to the tireless efforts of Chuck Beeler and others.
And that is the story of the Blue Line on DeRuyter Lake!
Mr. and Mrs. Charles Beeler set the standard on volunteerism. For over 10 years, working on behalf of the entire membership, they were able to resolve a serious issue that ultimately brought stability and financial security to all the residents of DeRuyter Lake.
Their diligence, commitment, and personal sacrifice, financial and otherwise will always be appreciated by the DeRuyter Lake Association and truly proves how volunteering can make a difference.
Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Beeler
Following one of the later negotiating sessions with the state, the DLA’s lawyer, Lee Carroll thought that because everything was going so well, he offered to take Chuck Beeler, Harold Maine and Paul Caywood out to lunch for a little celebration. Subsequently, the Association received a bill from the lawyer with the lunch cost included. Who says lawyers aren’t generous.
John Kennedy remembers his father saying that when John Sr. was much younger and owned the store on West Lake Rd., now camp 359, he and his next door neighbor were sitting on the porch when the state workers came through and installed the state monuments (square survey markers) that designated the high water mark. These monuments are from what all surveys are taken from. Well, after the workers left, Mr. Kennedy’s next door neighbor decided that wasn’t where the property line was and so decided to put it where he thought it was. Hence was born differing surveys of the same piece of land.
Here's a couple of links I found on the origin Lipton v Bruce
PS - We hope to add a copy of the original blue line map here and as more information becomes available, we will update.