Bolton Landing’s F.R. Smith & Sons Marina is not the owner of a 867 square foot strip of land where it has stored fuel tanks for more than five decades, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York State ruled on March 11.
Rather, the property belongs to the marina’s neighbor, the Boathouse Bed and Breakfast, which is owned by Joe and Patti Silipigno. The courts have yet to decide whether an existing tank must be removed immediately, an expensive and time-consuming procedure that could disrupt the sale of gasoline to boaters later this spring.
“We acknowledge that the Appellate Court has ruled against us, and we are considering our options,” said Richard Bartlett, whose firm, Bartlett, Pontiff, Stewart & Rhodes, represented F.R. Smith & Sons. Attorneys for F.R. Smith & Sons argued that the marina acquired the land by adverse possession before 1997, when marina owner Fred Smith and Joe Silipigno signed an agreement allowing F.R. Smith to make use of the land in return for discounts on marine services and fuel.
“I wanted to be a good neighbor to Freddy, so I agreed to allow him to continue to use the property, and he was elated,” said Silipigno, who bought the Boathouse in 1996. “Smith’s offered to plow my driveways in winter and service my boat at a 20 percent discount, offers I didn’t take advantage of. All I asked was that I be sold gas at a set price.”
According to Silipigno, that price was $1.73 per gallon, a price he continued to receive until 2001, two years after the death of Fred Smith. In 2001, court papers state, Smith’s staff increased the price of gasoline and informed Silipigno that the marina was not bound by his agreement with Fred Smith. Silipigno then brought a suit against the marina in the hope of having his title to the property affirmed, a move which he said caused ill-will among some residents of Bolton Landing.
“I was told, ‘neighbors don’t sue neighbors,’ but I didn’t initiate this. I think there was feeling against me because I’m a flatlander, an outsider, and the Smiths have been here for more than a hundred years,” Silipigno said. Silipigno said that he was also attempting to protect the integrity of the Boathouse property. Built in the early 1900s, the boat house was owned by speed boat racer George Reis, who won the Gold Cup in 1933, 1934 and 1935.
Until his death in 1962, Reis stored El Lagarto, his prize winning boat, at the boat house. El Lagarto is now on display at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake.
“This is a historic property which shouldn’t be jeopardized,” said Silipigno. The New York State Supreme Court found that F.R. Smith & Sons failed to prove that it had established title to the strip of land by adverse possession, a ruling that was upheld by the Apellate court in its March 11 decision. Silipigno said that he did not yet know whether F.R. Smith & Sons would be required to reimburse him for his legal fees, which he estimated to be in thousands of dollars. Photo: Boathouse Bed and Breakfast; from Lake George Mirror file
For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror.