The 1st District Court ruled in favor of Bear Lake property owners who have been fighting Garden City in an effort to protect their private driveways from public access to the beach areas near their homes.

In his recent ruling, Judge Thomas Willmore said there was strong evidence that there was never any intention for the driveways in question to be city streets.

“If a city owns public city streets for 50 years … it will typically pave or improve the streets in some way, plow the snow from them or name them,” he said. “A city would not allow public city streets to be chained off or gated by private citizens for any length of time, much less for decades.”

Jay Brown, president of the Shore Lodge Estates Homeowners association, said he was pleased the judge had agreed with the homeowners’ position.

“This judge’s decision was well-reasoned. It protects our property rights by recognizing that these driveways were never intended to be public access ways,” he said.

Two years ago, residents of the Shore Lodge Estates filed a against Garden CIty and its mayor, John Sphuler.

Homeowners said each of the seven driveways providing access to their 29 homes have always been and were always intended to be private.

Shore Lodge Estates was developed in the 1960s just off of State Road 30, about a mile south of La Beau’s Drive-In. For decades, the driveways to those homes have been gated or chained, until 2014 when the city removed those barriers and declared public access to lake.

At the time, Spuhler said the city’s objective was to provide Garden City residents, homeowners and visitors more access to beaches, trails and other outdoor recreational opportunities.

Willmore went on to point out that while the plat map states that developers “hereby dedicate for the perpetual use of the public all parcels of land shown on this plat as intended for public use,” the plat fails to actually designate streets or any other public use.

Further, the judge said the defendants did not adequately present anything of relevance to support any other finding.

“Not only do the declarations and surrounding facts and circumstances fail to show a clearly manifest intent to dedicate, they appear to constitute evidence of an intent not to dedicate,” he said.

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Amy Macavinta is the crime reporter for The Herald Journal. She can be reached at