County eyes lake's buffer

Tony Pennington developed an allergic reaction to Lake Wylie's waters about two years ago. Getting all-the-way-wet gives him sinus problems for days afterwards.

So he decided to build a swimming pool on his lakefront property. But the only spot he could put it was within 50 feet of the lake, where building is off-limits, according to a county ordinance.

Pennington asked for special permission from the zoning board, and got it.

"There were two other places where a small one could go," Pennington said. "One was on top of our septic tanks, one was on top of utility lines. We would've had to move all that."

Now the York County Council wants to make sure Pennington and others can't have pools, or much of anything else, in Lake Wylie's so-called buffer zone.

That buffer is designed to protect the county's water source from runoff and chemicals. The 50 feet of foliage serves as a natural filter. Over the past two years, the council has been rewriting the buffer ordinance, which property owners often describe as confusing.

Now the council looks to be toughening up further: Last week, it gave initial approval to outlawing barns, outbuildings, garages, carports, patios, decks, outdoor recreation structures and swimming pools within 50 feet of Lake Wylie. The proposal needs two more votes to take effect.

The new rules will help keep the zoning board of appeals from giving people like Pennington special permission. The zoning board grants exceptions to certain rules in cases of hardship.

But at least one councilman says a lakeside swimming pool is not a hardship.

"The county has gone to great lengths to protect the river and protect the lake," said Councilman Rick Lee. "The purpose (of the buffer) is to serve as a community environmental barrier to protect the water. Residents can picnic and play in the buffer, but not build a swimming pool."

The zoning board has only allowed a handful of pools in the past few years. Most pools along the lake were grandfathered in when the buffer ordinance first took effect, but the new ones have been permitted when landowners have shown a hardship existed.

Councilmen were poking fun at the new rules this week, and also wondered aloud how they might be interpreted.

"Can you put a grill in the buffer?" asked Councilman Tom Smith, who represents the Clover/Lake Wylie area. "What about an outdoor fire pit?"

"Wait a minute, what if you decide to put in a wading pool?" asked Councilman Joe Cox.