Thanks jack, yeah, we researched much of the chain ourselves and finally ordered the full chain of title to fill a gap between 1931 and 1963 where the recorder's records were difficult to follow.
Most of the other similar lakefront lots are worded the same, they were all written and sold by the same land company. We, as others have, were assuming the Not Excepting phrase meant no buildings. In 88 years there have been no buildings on this lot or 7 or 8 other similarly deeded lakefront lots.
When I put the not excepting question to my daughter, a history PHD candidate with a language major she wasn't sure if it meant to exclude or include boat houses [and bath houses actually]. She suggested that someone with more legal background might know better.
My next part of the inquiry leads me to how the land has been encumbered by the 1931 deed and how it has actually been used.
The lot is a lakefront lot is about 200 feet deep with about 50 feet of frontage on a 300-400 acre lake. This lot is one of several empty unbuildable lakefront lots across the road from a housing allotment. Most lake front lots are owned by homeowners across the road. Until recently most homes were older rather modest summer cottages.
One of the owners, the complainer, removed several cottages and build a large "million dollar" home across from our lakefront lot, He also owns a similarly situated and similarly deeded lakefront lot. This complainer now claims that laying down the docks on the land over the winter violates another of the 1931 deed's restrictions. Keep in mind there is a long history of laying the docks down on this group of lots as we have since we bought it in 2017. The complainer even wintered a floating jet ski dock last winter on his lot.
The same 1931 deed paragraph saying "No buildings..." says further down that, "This limitation shall not apply to... ...a retaining wall [on the shoreline] and the building of a suitable and proper pier..."
For the last 88 years there has been a dock on this lot of one form or another. In the winter the docks have been pulled out of the water and stored on the lot. Much the same has occurred on the lots north and south of this particular lot. That evidence is clear.
The paragraph that he claims we are violating, exactly as written in 1931 deed:
"The Grantor [note that it doesn't say Grantee] herewith agrees to maintain the premises in a clean, orderly condition and to endeavor to improve the appearance and beautify the same and no weeds, underbrush or other unsightly "*" [penciled in] objects shall be allowed to be placed or suffered to remain anywhere thereon "*" [penciled in] growths shall be permitted to grow or remain anywhere on said premises and no "unsightly" [penciled vertically in margin]
Our research disclosed that two other similar deeds say "Grantor herein agrees...", several others say "Grantee" and several had the same word jumble errors between the penciled in notations. There is no indication when the penciled in notation and word "unsightly" were added to the official record.
My legal defenses at this moment would be:
The 1931 Deed permits the placement of docks [piers] on the property and it is not clear that they didn't contemplate wintering them on land (as they have since).would these errors act to nullify or void that section?
"Unsightly" is a subjective term, we are a "middle class" boating lake and things associated with boating shouldn't be considered unsightly.
Laches, The complainer could have complained of the use long ago and did not. He in fact, used his lot just as we are using it now. In fact, several of the dock sections we own today came from his dock that he abandoned several years ago.
Waiver, acquiescence and abandonment, Complainant and other similarly situated land owners and each of their predecessors have used their lots how we are using our for at least the last 88 years.
Confusing and indefinite legal construction [whatever that legal term might be]
Our chief concern is that if we ever removed the docks (we are one of two lots this complainer hasn't got to yet) the village zoning department could put a zoning resolution in place restricting such future use. If the docks stay in place over the winter they would be a grandfathered in use if zoning acted as we suspect they might. One other owner still storing his docks on his lot has trees screening much of the materials. I suppose we could plant trees to screen off the sight of the docks, but we feel that would just block the complainer's view of the lake.