Sunday, October 30, 2011

Feds threaten to condemn 1200 homes

Roy and Karen Walker's condominium at Lake of the Ozarks represented a retirement dream fulfilled when the couple bought it nearly a decade ago. The unit overlooking the relatively calm Niangua arm of the lake had everything they wanted. It was near town, right on the shoreline, with an easily accessible boat dock. But proximity to the water has gone from a selling point to liability, their property from asset to albatross. The Columbia, Ill., couple are among thousands of property owners along the lake now stuck in legal limbo after being notified that all or part of their homes, decks, gazebos and patios were built on land that belongs to Ameren Missouri's Bagnell Dam and Osage hydroelectric project. What's more, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — the agency that regulates the lake, the dam and the hydroelectric plant — issued an order stating that all of the so-called nonconforming structures must be removed. St. Louis-based Ameren, caught in the middle of the dispute, has asked the federal agency to reconsider, at least with respect to the 1,200-plus residences in jeopardy. The utility, which manages the shoreline under federal oversight, wants to redraw the hydroelectric project boundary to exclude most, if not all, of the homes in danger. Meanwhile, the Walkers and many of their neighbors at the Lake Valley Condominiums — many with substantial portions of their life savings locked up in their homes — are scrambling for answers. Two of the development's buildings, along with a swimming pool and new wastewater treatment plant, are supposedly situated on Ameren's property. Some of the neighboring homes are also at risk. Some blame the neighborhood's developer; others, the title companies or the county. Many vent at Ameren. Almost universally, the shoreline restrictions are seen as massive overreach by the federal government. FERC has become a four-letter word...more

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