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Your Board of Directors has been working diligently on an issue that affects everyone in our community. There has been a plethora of information disseminated in one way or another regarding the topic of Lake Maintenance. Our intent is to provide you with information that we have gathered from a number of sources including Pinellas County’s Environmental Management Division who is the governing agency for our lakes. It’s important to note that while we call these bodies of water “lakes” they are actually categorized as “Drainage Easements”. Our lakes are not self-contained to Autumn Woods but are part of a watershed system that connects to other communities such as Innisbrook, Eniswood, and Hidden Lakes. The topic regarding the lakes has been discussed at a number of our monthly Board meetings however we feel it necessary to reach out to the entire community so that everyone has an opportunity to provide feedback on this issue that will affect our Governing Documents.
The issue at hand is really very straight forward and we have three options to consider. Before we get to the options it’s important to know how we got here. It was discovered that the yearly maintenance for our lakes was being paid in full by the Association, otherwise known as YOU. It is apparent that these costs were being paid for quite some time although not clearly defined in the accounting ledger. The estimated cost for 2021 is budgeted at $7000 which translates to roughly $43 per homeowner and is included as part of the annual dues.
Now for the problem. Each individual lakefront homeowner’s property extends into the lake thereby making it “Private Property” as opposed to “Common Area”. The Association does own a total of 4 lots located on Meadow Lake East & West. Pinellas County has told us that if one or more of these lakes were to need additional and potentially significant maintenance, beyond the normal routine maintenance, they would look to the property owners as the responsible party.
Our Governing Documents have a clause which states (Declarations page 10 Section 2. A.3) “The Association shall have the sole and absolute right, but not the obligation, to control the water level of such lakes and to control the growth and eradication of plants, fowl, reptiles, animals, fish, bacteria and fungi in or on
such lakes”. The problem with this language is that it becomes an annual or could even be an incident decision on who is going to pay for any particular maintenance item associated with the lakes. At any point in time, now or in the future, a Board of Directors could choose to opt-in or opt-out of paying for all or part of the maintenance attributed to the lakes.
There are many opinions being put forth to support the position of the lakefront owners as well as the remaining homeowners. There are two general points of view. The first is that the Association should pay for any and all maintenance costs because the entire neighborhood benefits from the lakes as they are the depository for water and debris that finds its way into the storm drains. This is certainly a true fact. The other side is that the Lakefront Owners should pay for the yearly “Routine Maintenance” and potentially all maintenance because the Lakefront Owners chose to live on the lake and also derive a direct benefit to their property value as a result of living on a “Lakefront”. This is also a true fact. Finally, all homeowners benefit from the ascetics of our neighborhood and the amenities we enjoy. This is also a true fact.
We would like to develop a path forward that would be a permanent solution for this issue. We believe that Lake Maintenance should not be an open-ended decision but one that our Governing Documents clearly defines.
Below you will find three scenarios. Please select the approach that most closely identifies with your understanding of the issue and the direction you believe should be taken. Keep in mind that this is NOT a vote. It is merely an indication of your point of view.
As a prerequisite to your consideration, the discussion of dredging has been an ongoing debate. It is important to point out that there are no current plans or directives to dredge any of our lakes. According to environmental specialists, if a problem were to arise, dredging would be the remedy of last resort. Also, important to understand is that remedies required to resolve lake quality issues will only be for the lake or lakes in general and not for any individual homeowner.