A long-running court battle between Appalachian Power and lakefront property owners Richard Pressl and Bill Nissen seems to have finally reached a conclusion.
An ongoing court order by Appalachian Power requesting that Nissen remove property from his dock so it could be removed was dismissed by both parties in September. In November, Appalachian Power issued a permit allowing Pressl to construct a dock on his property — nearly a year after removing his unfinished dock.
Both lake residents spent years challenging Appalachian’s authority to regulate the lake’s shoreline. Their cases were challenged all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court in March 2018 where judges refused to hear the case, standing by the ruling in lower courts in favor of Appalachian Power.
The first of the two cases began in 2014 when Appalachian filed a complaint in federal court shortly after Nissen began constructing a dock without obtaining a permit from them, although he had obtained a permit from Franklin County. Nissen’s case moved between federal court, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and back to the Franklin County Circuit Court where Judge James Reynolds ruled in Appalachian’s favor. That decision was appealed to the Virginia Supreme Court and later turned down.
Pressl’s case began in 2015 when he filed a civil suit against Appalachian in an effort to construct a dock on his property after years of unsuccessfully being able to obtain a permit. That case moved between state and federal courts and the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals before returning to Franklin County Circuit Court in 2017 where Reynolds once again ruled in Appalachian’s favor. Pressl also appealed Reynolds’ decision to the Virginia Supreme Court.
Appalachian removed Pressl’s unfinished dock in December 2018. Boats and other personal property on Nissen’s dock prevented Appalachian from removing that one around the same time, according to court records.
A motion filed Jan. 3 by Appalachian stated that “despite repeated requests to do so, the Nissens have failed to remove the dock at issue in the lawsuit, and have in essence blocked APCO from removing the dock on its own.”
According to court records, a day after the motion was filed, Nissen applied for a dock permit from Appalachian. The application delayed a court hearing set for Jan. 8 as both sides worked on an agreement.
A motion filed in March by both parties asked for another delay in a court hearing as the issue was being worked out. The motion stated, “The Nissens appear to be making good faith effort to remove or modify the previously existing dock in accordance with the conditional permit granted by APCO. Considering this, while acknowledging certain conditions for the permit still need to be met, the parties jointly request that the court continue the hearing.”
The court hearing was delayed again in July to September when both sides agreed to dismiss the case. Nissen did not respond to requests for comment.
Pressl’s permit for a 1,455-square-foot dock approved in November by Appalachian is notable considering the company removed a dock from the property nearly a year earlier. Pressl declined to comment when reached by phone, adding that he would be willing to discuss the issue once the dock is completed.
Appalachian spokesman John Shepelwich also declined comment on either of the docks. He said Appalachian was able to work with both property owners to reach a positive outcome.
“We certainly understand that dealing with external requirements on someone’s personal or business property could be an issue for anyone,” Shepelwich said. “That is why our shoreline management team works very hard to come up with the best solution for those shoreline owners for a useful and mutually beneficial outcome.”