This case was tried before District Judge Cogswell, sitting without a jury. On September 13, 1954, plaintiff Mabel R. Smylie purchased lots 6 and 7 of Paradise Point Lake Lots according to the plat
At the time Paradise Point was platted, a small irregular and triangular shaped parcel of ground lying westerly of lot 7 owned by the plaintiff, and northerly of lot 8 owned by the defendants, was left unplatted and not included within the confines of the lot lines of either lot. This parcel of ground is the land in controversy in this action and abuts Priest Lake as the westerly terminus of a driveway as shown on the plat lying between lots 7 and 8, 11 and 12.
From the testimony presented, and from the court's personal observation of the property in question, it appeared that the disputed area is rocky and steep, sloping northerly from a high area along the north side of lot 8 to the cove on Priest Lake westerly of lot 7. The only flat space on the disputed tract lies next to the line on the southwest boundary of lot 7 shown as being 28 feet long and running N 30° 0' W. This flat space provides enough room to launch a boat. This flat area would increase
Most of the trial was devoted to the efforts of plaintiff and defendant to show that each had gained ownership of the disputed parcel by adverse possession. The respective activities of each party over the years are excellently summarized in the court's findings of fact VIII, IX, X and XI. It is sufficient to state here that the court found that neither party had met the requirements of adverse possession. This finding disposed of the main factual issue in the case.
The principal legal issue in the case stems from plaintiff Smylie's argument that the east-west lines of her lot 7 must be extended westward to the ordinary high water mark of the lake, thus including within her ownership most of the disputed area. On the other hand, defendant Pearsall claimed all of the disputed area on the basis of a quitclaim deed to the area which he acquired in 1964 from the Palmers as original owners.
The court disposed of both of these contentions by finding that, since the plat as recorded contained a space, namely, the disputed parcel, forming no part of the platted lots, that parcel of land represented by the excluded space was dedicated to the public use. Though the county records contain no formal dedication, the dedication is presumed from the plat, and no evidence was presented to rebut the presumption. The short form deeds by which the parties took title to their lots refer only to the plat. As a matter of geography, the court found that the disputed parcel forms a natural boat launching and landing area at the terminus of the driveway which was marked on the plat. Moreover, several of the Paradise Point lot owners used the parcel as such. Since the disputed parcel was thus dedicated to the public by the Palmers upon the recording of the plat, Smylie's lot line may not be there extended and the subsequent quitclaim deed from the Palmers cannot be effective.
The court thus quieted plaintiff's title to all of lots 6 and 7 extended to the ordinary high water mark, excepting only that portion marked as the disputed area on plaintiff's exhibit above and described as follows:
The court further denied damage claims of both parties and directed that each party bear its own costs. Only plaintiff Smylie has appealed, while defendant Pearsall filed no brief and made no appearance in the appeal.
This case presents a conflict in the operation of two rather distinct legal principles. On the one hand, the district court concluded that the open space on the Paradise Point plat corresponding to the small parcel of disputed land must constitute "* * * a common law dedication * * *."
On the other hand, appellant argues that the whole of the surveyed broken line at the western end of her lot 7 is a meander line. As such, that line is not a boundary but rather is merely a surveyor's line of convenience which roughly indicates the contour of the water and determines the portion of the lot for which a purchaser will pay. In contemplation of law, appellant contends, the owner of such a lot actually owns all the land between the sidelines extended to the ordinary high water mark of the water body. In thus claiming ownership of most of the disputed parcel, appellant relies upon other early Idaho cases among other authorities.
On the basis of the reasons and authority which follow, we are convinced that the line of reasoning adopted by the district court must carry. Appellant's main objection to the conclusion of the district court is that the finding of public dedication is based upon cases in which the plats contained spaces actually labeled or named as streets. Appellant would distinguish the situation at bar because the disputed area is not actually labeled on the plat as a public landing, for example.
We do not view the absence of a written designation in specific spaces on the plat as always foreclosing the possibility of a public dedication of the areas so represented. It has been recognized that the original owner's intent to accomplish such a dedication may be inferred from other circumstances. In City of Los Angeles v. McCollum,
A case quite similar to the case at bar was Cassell v. Reeves.
The court further noted that "leaving an unmarked space or strip between a street shown on the plat and a navigable river" or other positioning of the space on the plat may show an owner's intention to dedicate areas to public use. Thus, the court found the space was intended for convenient use of the lakeshore in this lakeside development.
In the case at bar, the plat of Paradise Point specifically indicates a "road" which runs along at the rear of lots 1-7, continues to the shore between lots 12 and 13, and also runs behind lots 13-21. Connected to this "road" is a "driveway" which runs along lot 7 at the rear of lots 11 and 12 and then turns sharply south and runs at the rear of lots 8-10. This "driveway" is intended to provide land access to each of lots 8-12. The northwest corner of this "driveway" is not closed off but rather opens toward the lake and the small apron of land which is here in dispute. It appears that this parcel was intended as a continuation of the "driveway" providing natural access to the lake. As the district court found, the topography and use of this parcel and the shallow cove which it abuts all confirm this intention as inferred from the character of the recorded plat. We believe that the overall tenor of the plat shows an intention on the part of the Palmers to dedicate the disputed area. This dedication became fixed upon the recording of the plat and the sale of any of the lakeside lots.
Appellant contends that the case of Deffenbaugh v. Washington Water Power Co.
The Poole case involved a plat of Lake Forest, Illinois, along the shore of Lake Michigan. After first finding that an owner of lakeside lots had successfully acquired areas of beach by adverse possession, the court found insufficient evidence to show that the original owner had dedicated the beach area. The court considered statements written on the plat to the effect that lakeside lots extended only to a line along a bluff before the beach and the fact that the beach area on the plat had not been labeled. The court believed that these circumstances were overcome in balance by the fact that the original owner, subsequent to the recording of the plat, conveyed several portions of beach area to others, thus confirming a supposition that no dedication had been intended originally. It appears that none of the disputed beach in that case represented a continuation of dedicated roads or driveways serving as special access to the water such as exists in the case at bar. In this case, the evidence and law appears to weigh in favor of a dedication and the Poole case in any event would militate against the appellant since the respondent had acquired a quit claim deed following dedication. We believe the determination of this issue is also determinative of the case.
Appellant Smylie also argues that the court erred in finding that she had not acquired ownership of the disputed parcel by adverse posssession. Of course, it is required by I.C. § 5-210(1) that land claimed by adverse possession be "* * * protected by a substantial inclosure." The statute makes this an essential element of adverse possession, yet this requirement was not satisfied in the case at bar. It is true that the character of the enclosure may vary somewhat from case to case "* * * so long as it satisfies what is usual under the circumstances and indicates clearly the boundaries of the adverse occupancy * * *."
We come finally to two matters of description of the parcel of land disputed in this case. First, it is clear from the district court's finding of fact that the disputed area is part of a common law dedication of a roadway. The disputed apron of land was found to be the terminus of a driveway forming a natural access to Priest Lake. Under the authorities relied upon by the district court, the parcel was found to have been dedicated to the public use. Thus, as appellant points out, the court's conclusion of law that the dedication was established "solely for the benefit of all the owners of lots in Paradise Point Lake Lots" does not conform precisely to its findings of fact. That legal conclusion appears to create in the other lot owners mere private rights to an equitable easement in the disputed parcel. As in the Cassell case, supra, however, since the court found a common law dedication to the public use, the parcel was dedicated for the benefit not only of the other Paradise Point Lake Lot owners but also of the public generally.
Second, the district court's description of the disputed parcel is inaccurate in one respect, as asserted by appellant. The court's judgment should be corrected to indicate the correct boundary of the disputed
As modified, the judgment below is affirmed.
Respondents did not appear; therefore, no need to award costs.
McFADDEN, C.J., and DONALDSON, SHEPARD, and SPEAR, JJ., concur.