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Buffer rule decision delayed

(published May 26, 2009)

LAKE WYLIE -- New rules designed to keep Lake Wylie and the Catawba River and its tributaries clean and to strengthen their banks against erosion were put on hold last week by the York County Council .

The proposed buffers would restrict what property owners can do on their land within 50 feet on the lake. A 100-foot buffer would apply to land on the Catawba River.

Council members said they wanted to address some of the concerns raised by property owners -- many of whom told the council they supported the new restrictions in principle.

However, all the residents who spoke had changes they wanted to see before the ordinance was adopted.

"Our main goal is that our rights as property owners are not compromised," landowner Alan Miller said.

With the buffer zones, lakefront homeowners, especially those with smaller lots or streams running through their property, could lose use of a significant portion of land.

"There is no one more concerned with the quality of the lake than the property owners," said John Rinehart, a member of the Allison Creek Homeowners Association board of directors.

Buffer zones around the river and lake would be measured 100 feet from the average point at which the water is highest each year. Buffers along creeks would be measured 50 feet from their banks.

Buffer zone cut proposed

Rinehart proposed cutting the buffer zone around the river's tributaries to 25 feet and measuring that from the center of the creeks, leaving more land for homeowners' use.

Susan Britt, the county's director of planning and development, said that would not provide enough of a buffer to protect the waterways.

Miller, Rinehart and other homeowners stressed that people who buy land on the lake -- and often spend years paying for it -- would not fail to maintain it.

Council chairman Buddy Motz, however, disagreed.

When 20 percent of a group don't do what they're supposed to do, Motz said, "the other 80 percent get caught up."

'Inclusive process'

Lake Wylie Lakekeeper Ellen Goff praised the council's "inclusive and transparent process" of developing the proposed ordinance and encouraged them not to "dilute" it.

She suggested several areas in which the council should consider making future ordinances even stricter, such as increasing fines for repeat offenders of land ordinances, closing loopholes for landowners who violate ordinances and limiting commercial mass grading.

Most important, Goff said, is educating landowners about preventing erosion and keeping the water clean.

Most of the land surrounding the lake already has been developed, Goff said, so by approving the new rules would not kill undeveloped lots.

The council voted to defer a vote on the new rules until Britt and her staff could review some of the landowners' suggestions.