At Lake Texoma, A Man, His Boat House, and a Decades-Long Fight With the Corps of Engineers

Categories: Legal Battles

ship-house-03.jpg
Foundshit.com
Charles Paternostro's boat house does not look like this. But it should.
Charles Paternostro was 14 when, in the mid-'50s, his father purchased an acre of land on a five-story cliff overlooking Lake Texoma and built a modest, three-bedroom home. The family lived in Dallas full-time but spent their weekends at the reservoir, boating and swimming and fishing.

After his parents died, Pasternostro, an attorney, and his brothers inherited the place and quickly became, as he describes it, a thorn in the side of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"When my brother was alive several years ago, he was a lawyer too, and ... they would have such ridiculous rules, and we would challenge those rules," he said.

There was, then, a long-standing history of bad blood between Paternostro and the corps when he asked for permission to repair the boathouse his father had built on the lake. A few month later, lake manager Joe Custer sent a crew out to inspect the structure. A lot of work would need to be done, he determined. That meant the boat house and attached dock would and would have to go. If he refused, he faced up to a $5,000 fine and six months in jail.

All this was part of a plan, Paternostro says, to drive the lawyer off the lake, something Custer has been angling at for years.

"This Joe Custer, he's a hot dog," Paternostro said. "He thinks he's the king of the roost."

But Paternostro was having none of it. He has, by his count, filed four previous lawsuits against the corps, one after the agency ordered him to remove a refrigerator from his boat house because it was a sign of habitation. Another time, the corps was ultimately successful when it told him to remove water slides and diving boards from the edge of the lake. He's tried unsuccessfully to bring a class-action suit with his fellow boat house owners.

Last week, Paternostro sued again. He claims the corps has overstepped its authority by effectively preventing him from repairing his dock. He's seeking an injunction to prevent the agency from taking it down, as he says they plan to do.

I've left messages with the corps' Tulsa District public affairs office and with Custer.

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14 comments
ozonelarryb
ozonelarryb

I am so glad the G is protecting me from optical damage.

 

WaterfrontChris
WaterfrontChris

Charles,

I think I remember an earlier incident (about 25 years ago) between you and the Corps involving your derelict boathouse and a water slide you added without approval.  As I remember, you were taken to court twice to get the slide removed and the last time given $5K fine and 5 years probation by Judge Brown.  I know why you don't include a picture of the boathouse, no one would be blame the Corps for trying to get rid of that "eye sore" and safety hazard if they saw it.  It was a derelict 25 years ago and more so now!

 

Love,

Chris

kergo1spaceship
kergo1spaceship

They should be working on stopping zebra mussels, not some dude that has a house that looks like a ship.  Funny, twenty years ago, stuff like that was all over Texoma, now you have Marge from Carrolton bitching about sh+t, because it diminishes the value of her country Mcmansion.  I think yuppies are WORSE than zebra mussels, and must be stopped!  Want to see the real lake Texoma?  Go across the highway 91 bridge (dam bridge) into Oklahoma; then drive behind Windy's catfish, and the convenience store-now that's Texoma livin'.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

The Corps at Lake Texoma is notorious for its capricious actions and vendettas against anyone willing to stand up to them. They have gone so far as moving survey markers and taking land from people.

 

They will NEVER admit a mistake.  It doesn't matter if their victims have heart attacks and die.

 

If you aren't a lawyer and try to sue them to get fair treatment, their strategy is to bankrupt you with motions,surveys, court changes, discovery, endless depositions and they've even gone so far as to try to invalidate wills...   they have taxpayer funded lawyers....

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

The Corps(and his neighbors) have the right to demand that the structure be kept in good working and basically not look like shit.  However, the fact that it is grandfathered to allow it to be enclosed and have a floating dock it not within there rights.

 

So if he is willing to fix it up (as I believe that his application for repairs shows), I say let him fix it.  If the Lake Managers actions are part of a vendeta against the owner, he has wasted a lot of Corps money fighting this.  Texas lakes were not designed for the ubber rich.  Therefore some things built in the 1950's through the 1970's don't fit in to today's standards.  There appears to be a pretty large house next door.  I think that it is reasonable that this or another landowner is the source of the complaints.  My experience with the Corps is that they lake the ambition to "interpret" rules or pursue vendetas.  I can see how they could get a God Complex, but they have to backed into a corner first.

Zipp
Zipp

I'm supposed to feel sympathy for a lawsuit-happy lawyer?

Z0RR0
Z0RR0

the corps are out of control. good job.

OklaTex
OklaTex

 @Zipp i feel sympathy for other property owners that have to shell out bucks to get their docks deemed repairable because they do not have the 'secret key' to gain access to the courtroom.

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

My his motion, he is willing to repair it.  Repair is the basis for his argument rather than a modification.  A modification would void his grandfathered permit and therefore he would have to remove the sides of the boathouse and the attached floating dock.

 

 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @Rumpunch1 The devil is in the details ... he is correct in his filing that if he were to repair the structure without the USACE approval then he would be subject to sanction in a federal court.

 

I would imagine that a big part of the problem is that he has a boat dock and the lake manager is tired of of telling other people why he gets to have one and they can't.

Rumpunch1
Rumpunch1

I was bored by the time I got to the appendices.  However, the rejection should be of the single peak modification, rather than an order to tear the whole thing down.  A lot of middle ground which doesn't cost the taxpayers money. 

 

If he was a true scumbag lawyer, he would sue for additional property damages as a result of the delay in necessary repairs.  He has hinted in his filing he would be commiting a crime by making necessary repairs in the interim.

 

 

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

 @Rumpunch1 If you read the appendices to his filing, he did plan on modifying the boathouse from its original double peak roof design to a single peak roof design.

 

I was with him until I saw that part of his filing.

 

Notwithstanding that, I do believe that he has good standing to be able to do whatever repairs are necessary while maintaining the original design.

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