To the Editor:
I have concerns about the Lake Alice Cove Condominium project that has been approved for development. My first concern is that this development intends to put a marina on Lake Alice in the bay across from the golf course on Echo Valley Road. This is one of those cases where location is everything. If the development were to be located on the main body of the lake that would be one thing, but it’s not. Instead, they want to put it in an environmentally sensitive part of the lake that cannot support the volume of boat traffic and human influence that a development of this size would produce. This bay is shallow, with a maximum depth of about 5 feet, and it is filled with stumps and weeds. This area is a major spawning site for most species of fish that can be found in Lake Alice. It is also an important resting site for migrating waterfowl and is an important nesting site for the waterfowl that remain here – primarily mallards, wood ducks, mergansers and Canada geese. The lake also has a breeding pair of loons that have been seen in this bay. There is a bald eagle that has been nesting along the shore of this bay for years. A group of cranes have been using the floating bog located in this bay as a nesting site for over 10 years. We would loose all of this if the marina is allowed to be built here.
The Dec. 14, 2006, Lincoln County Planning and Zoning Committee minutes state that the DNR and the Army Corps of Engineers were contacted about the plan to put a marina in the bay across from the golf course, by the head of the Lake Alice Lake Association. They both expressed the opinion that this marina would have a negative impact on the lake. Lake Alice is not a good waterskiing lake due to the large number of stumps it contains. Lake Alice is a good fishing lake. If this marina is built, and the spawning grounds are lost, it is unreasonable to think that the lake could be restocked enough to make up for the loss of natural reproduction from the multiple species of fish that call Lake Alice home. This marina is not worth the high cost we would have to pay in terms of the damage that would be done to the lake, the wildlife and the environment.
Just hearing about the condominium development, it may seem alright until you look at the plat for the development and put it into context. Looking at the condominium plat, a number of the lots on the plan don’t comply with the current zoning restrictions and codes for Lincoln County. The Lincoln County Property Owner’s Guide to Shore Land Zoning, which the county published in 2004, states on page 7 the restrictions that are currently in place. Lake Alice is classified as a low sensitivity lake. This category includes the following restrictions – the lot size needs to be 30,000 sq. feet with a lot width of 150 feet. The ordinary high water setback for structures is 75 feet, with a side yard set back cumulative of 25 feet with a minimum of 10 feet. There is a buffer depth of 35 feet, with a viewing or access corridor that is no more than 30 feet in any 100 feet of frontage. The town of King’s zoning district map states that on property zoned rural residential 3, which the condominium property is, the lots must be 50,000 sq. feet in size. The zoning office for Lincoln County stated that because this is a condominium, they look at it as a whole, not as individual lots so they don’t have to follow any of the zoning restrictions that are in place.
If you look at the plat, the condominiums “common” areas appear to be either roads or wetlands. The zoning committee minutes from Dec. 14, 2006, state that “in 2008 the owners of the King’s Dam will be putting 3-1/2 feet on top of the dam’s spillway which means that 1,464 feet will be the effective flood plain for the lake. This is a mandated order by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.” Looking at the plat, it appears that some of the lots numbered 28-47, if not most of them, would be located on the new flood plain. Lots 20 thru 28 may also be affected by the flood plain. In addition to that, lots 28-47 are surrounded by wetlands and I see no buffer zones designated between the wetlands and the lots on the plat. As an individual property owner, I would be mandated by the DNR to have a designated buffer zone established to protect the wetlands.
In the Lincoln County Zoning Committee minutes from Dec. 14, 2006, the condominium developers want to put in a road to get to lots 28-47. The location of the road on the plat shows that it would have to cross a wetland. This road would block the natural flow/drainage of the wetland into Lake Alice.
On the plat you will also see that of the 20 lots that make up lots 28-47, 18 of these are less than 1 acre and of those, six of them are between 0.57-0.40 acres in size. In the Lincoln County Zoning Committee minutes from 2006, the developers were asked about what type of septic systems would be used by the development. The developers responded that they are looking at “individual systems for the units encroaching upon the adjacent common area, otherwise they will look at a common system.” How do you put a home and a septic system on a lot that is less than 0.5 acres, and lot number 22 is only 0.35 acres in size? What about the 20 lots numbered 28-47 that are located on the flood plain and are surrounded by wetland? No where on the plat do I see any area that has been set aside as a waste management area, or are the developers planning on using the roads and wetland areas that are designated as “common” areas for the sites septic system?
Joan Guisto is on record in the Dec. 14, 2006, Zoning Committee minutes as stating “that a development of this size would have a negative impact on Lake Alice. The lake quality, shoreline, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat would all suffer. Roads and septic would have a significant impact on the environment.” The point was also made that the recent drought experienced by the area makes a lot of areas that are really wetlands not appear so.
In the Dec. 14 meeting minutes, town of King also went on record as stating that they were unaware of the development, even though a large part of it is in the town of King. The zoning committee responded by saying that the township didn’t need to be notified until after the plat was recorded. They also state that approval of this plan is not an issue because it was already approved and the zoning committee had no jurisdiction over condominium plats. To me it sounds like what they are saying is – we don’t have to tell you about a development until it’s approved and once it’s approved there’s not a lot we can do about it. With so many different people bringing up so many environmental concerns regarding this development, I want to know why there wasn’t a well publicized public hearing held regarding this development so that the people who are going to have to live with the effects of a development of this size could express their feelings regarding it.
If this development goes thru as it is currently laid out, and the environment and lake are negatively impacted, is the county going to reduce the property taxes for everyone who lives on Lake Alice or near the condominium development to reflect the damage that has been done?
I have heard that the developers have stated that if they don’t get to put in a marina, they won’t be able to sell the property. There is a private boat launching area one mile from the development where you can launch a boat for a nominal fee. If you go an additional mile down the road, there is a public boat landing. If these landings are good enough for all of the property owners who live on Lake Alice, I don’t see how this would be a hardship for the condominium residents.
I am not against development, but I do think that we need to start thinking outside of the urban building model, especially in rural residential areas. The true value of this development lies in the very things that will be damaged or lost if this development is allowed to proceed as it is currently laid out.
If less lots were on the condominium property that complied with the current zoning regulations, and were not located on the flood plain, a communal area could be established that had a dock for fishing and launching non-motorized watercraft. Picnic tables and benches could be placed on shore where they could be enjoyed by the residents.
The county and townships have developed restrictions and codes that are designed to protect our environment and resources. It isn’t right that just by calling a subdivision a condominium you don’t have to follow any of the established rules. If these codes are good enough for the individual property owners in the county, they should also be good enough for larger developments to follow as well.
Lake Alice Lake Association member