*Editor's Note: This story is in conjunction with another story, "Assessor: Land ownership goes down to shoreline." To read that story, see the related content to the right.
As Ameren Missouri files its plan to resolve encroachments in the Project Boundary of the Lake of the Ozarks, one man is questioning the lakefront boundary of his property and its affect on assessed valuation and property tax.
Twenty-two year owner of property on Venture Valley Rd. in the Ivy Bend area of Morgan County and a longtime resident there, Charles "Bud" Sanzottera says the abstract of his deed shows he owns to the 660 foot elevation, which is basically to the waterline. The originally recorded plat of Vert's Venture Valley subdivision in 1958 and the 1960 deed for his lot shows that it extends to the 660' line as well.
However, further research on his part shows that he does not own what he thought he owned, according to
Going back to the beginning and the Recorder of Deeds office, Sanzottera looked through the original documentation on land transactions by Union Electric for the Lake of the Ozarks specifically in his area of the lake.
Union Electric Land & Development Corporation sold excess property in 1945, says Sanzottera. That tract of land included more than 100 acres, he says, but specifically did not include land below the elevation of 665'.
"They never sold below the 665' or in some isolated cases 662'," Sanzottera said. "Every sale after that - there's no mention of 665. It just says subject to record."
According to Ameren Missouri's aerial map of the lake, which shows the current boundary at 665' in this area, Sanzottera's house and lot are almost entirely below 665'.
After consulting an attorney, Sanzottera says Ameren Missouri, as a power generating company, is protected from adverse possession, under which ordinarily he could pursue the right to the land in question because he's been living on the land for so long without Ameren Missouri trying to stop him.
"How do you continue to sell property that isn't yours and everybody ignore it?" asks Sanzottera, who says he is the seventh owner of this particular lot since the subdivision was developed. "It's not as clean and clear as people think it is. The only thing that's clear is that I cannot dispute Ameren's ownership as much as I hate to say it."
According to Sanzottera, the title insurance only goes back to the late 1970s, not far enough back to cover the conflict in ownership.
If other property owners who have deeds that show they own to the 660' do the research from the time Union Electric was developing the Bagnell Dam project, Sanzottera says he believes many will find they are in the same boat as him.
Page 2 of 2 - He wants Morgan County to change the assessment in time for 2012 taxes.
"My purpose is not to dispute ownership, but I will not pay any more taxes for property I do not own. All I own is a mailbox and a propane tank - and even it's leased."
Sanzottera adds that he may also pursue the return of previous years' taxes as far back as the statute of limitations allows.
"I do not want to file suit, but I will," he says.
Even if the Project Boundary is moved to 662' as has been proposed by Ameren Missouri, Sanzottera says that should still affect how his property is assessed.
Not only does it make the area of his property smaller, he questions whether it can still be considered lakefront since it does not go to the water's edge.
The county, and likely all counties with lakefront properties, needs to completely rethink how lakefront property is appraised, Sanzottera says.
Union Electric later became AmerenUE as a subsidiary of Ameren. AmerenUE's name was later changed to Ameren Missouri.
Through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Ameren Missouri is the licensed operator of the Osage Hydroelectric Facility known as Bagnell Dam.
FERC has regulatory authority over specific hydroelectric projects. Through the Federal Power Act, FERC is charged with balancing power generation and non-power generation in regards to hydropower facilities.
FERC issued an order July 26, 2011 approving and modifying Ameren Missouri's Shoreline Management Plan for the Lake of the Ozarks. Concerns about encroachments within the Project Boundary were raised at that time. After an Ameren Missouri rehearing request filed Aug. 26, 2011, FERC responded with an order Nov. 10, 2011 clarifying their previous position and providing a framework for Ameren Missouri to revise the Project Boundary, to be submitted for FERC's approval, in order to exclude habitable structures from within the Project Lands.