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Legal battles continue between AEP and Smith Mountain Lake property owners

Some property owners are concerned AEP is overreaching on personal property.

FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – A constant back and forth in the court system is giving some Smith Mountain Lake property owners cause for concern.

Two separate lake property owners are locked in legal battles with AEP over who controls the land and water due to fluctuating water levels associated with producing power at the lake.

Bill Nissen has been battling AEP in court for about three years. AEP says Nissen's dock doesn't meet its shoreline management guidelines. Nissen disagrees. 

"It meets county and state guidelines. I have a building permit for it from the county that I paid for, they reviewed," said Nissen.

Nissen says an easement dating back to the 1960s allows for recreation and freedom on personal lake property. To this day, the courts have gone back and forth on that idea. Nissen's fear is that more regulation means property values may sink, and the county's tax base may shrink.

"I think when they feel that they have complete control, if they were to win, I would probably move to tell you the truth. And I think there's a lot of people that would do that also," said Nissen. 

Richard Pressl lives down the road from Nissen. He bought this lakefront home about five years ago and since then, he has been working to get this dock cleared for construction. He says AEP wants more work done on the land before a dock is approved, but he's worried time is not on his side.

"It's been horrible. My dream in retirement was to own a lakefront home and enjoy a lake. Obviously that hasn't been the case. They've denied my access to the lake," said Pressl. 

And another change is coming, Nissen's and Pressl's cases are headed to the Virginia Supreme Court where it may finally be decided where the power really lies.

Thursday night at 6 p.m., there will be a public meeting at the Westlake library to discuss the recent rulings and what's next for concerned property owners.

We did reach out to AEP this afternoon. A representative said since the cases are still within the court system, AEP will not comment. The representative did say that property owners could visit www.smithmtn.com to learn more about the shoreline management plan.