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Flap over lake dock is a classic Catch-22

All but one Lake Kersey house have docks. The city says no dock for that one.

By ANNE LINDBERG, Times Staff Writer
Published September 2, 2007


What started as a simple request for a permit to build a dock has spawned a philosophical battle that could end in the city's giving a lake back to surrounding homeowners.

At issue is whether Seminole should let homeowners whose property adjoins city-owned lakes have permits to build docks. The body of water that provoked the discussion is the 5.72-acre Lake Kersey that Seminole took over in 1988 when the surrounding homes were annexed into the city. Lake Kersey is east of Seminole Boulevard at the eastern end of Blossom Lake Drive.

The annexation occurred in part because the homeowners were unable to care for the lake. Seminole took over ownership and has since spent at least $4,000 on aeration equipment and about $60 a month for electricity to run the system.

At the time of the annexation, all the homes but one had docks that extended into the lake. Earlier this year, the lone homeowner without a dock asked for a permit to build one. City officials were unable to issue a permit because Seminole has no such rules.

The matter went before the City Council, which turned down the request in a 4-0 vote. Three of the seven council members were absent at the time. Homeowners around Lake Kersey and Blossom Lake petitioned the council to reconsider its decision.

For council member Dan Hester, the answer was a simple no. Lake Kersey, he said, is virtually surrounded by private homes, leaving no public access.

"Lake Kersey is basically a private lake," Hester said. "It has no access by the public (yet) that is the public's lake. ... Taxpayers' dollars are spent on that lake but not one of them except the small community that lives around that lake have access to it."

It is not right, Hester said, for tax money to be spent on property that they have no chance of enjoying. Allowing someone to build a private dock on a lake that can only be exclusively used by those homeowners serves no public purpose, he said.

"Since the public can't use it, and since the public pays for it, why not give it back to the homeowners?" Hester asked. "When they take it back, they can maintain it, they can build docks, and they can do whatever they want to do (with it)."

Council member Tom Barnhorn disagreed, saying that the homeowners are members of the public. The fact that not all residents can use the lake is no reason to deprive those around the lake of the right to enjoy it by building a dock, he said.

"I appreciate the statements about not seeing a public purpose in allowing a dock to go in. My question is what public purpose are you serving by not allowing it?" Barnhorn asked. "I don't see the actual purpose in denying the dock."

Hester reiterated that public property should be available for use by all the taxpayers. Lake Kersey, he said, is not available for use by all. By its landlocked nature, only the surrounding homeowners have a chance to use the lake, he said.

It's a philosophical issue, that he and Barnhorn might have to agree to disagree about, Hester said.

Council members decided to ask city staff members to come up with a proposed ordinance for the issuance of dock permits. City staff is also scheduled to study the possibility of returning ownership of Lake Kersey to the surrounding homeowners.