Lake Wylie is more than just a source of recreation and scenery for those who live near its shores. While most lakeside residents no doubt respect the need to protect the quality of the lake's water, the York County Council is justified in setting guidelines to ensure that all do so.
Over the past two years, the county has worked to rewrite and clarify the buffer ordinance that ensures a 50-foot-deep circle of foliage around the lake. The ordinance is designed to ensure enough natural greenery remains to filter out runoff and other pollutants that otherwise might drain into the lake.
The county has had buffer rules since 2003, but residents often have found the old ordinance confusing and unevenly enforced. The new ordinance not only would make the regulations clearer but also toughen restrictions. In June, council members gave initial approval to regulations that would outlaw barns, outbuildings, garages, carports, patios, decks, outdoor recreation structures and swimming pools within 50 feet of the lake.
The proposal needs two more votes to take effect, and we hope members stick to their guns. While the county zoning board has allowed a handful of exceptions to the ordinance, including swimming pools, in the past few years, those allowances should be severely limited, if not prohibited altogether, in the future.
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As Councilman Rick Lee, one of the proponents of stiffer rules, noted at a recent council meeting, the buffer should serve as a "community environmental barrier to protect the water. Residents can picnic and play in the buffer, but not build a swimming pool."
These rules acknowledge the fact that Lake Wylie is the primary source of fresh water for much of the county. A natural barrier helps prevent runoff of lawn and garden chemicals and other hazardous materials into the lake.
And, while residents should not be allowed to build in the buffer zone, they also should be prevented from removing major trees and other significant plants from the zone. However, if the rules are to be effective, residents should be able to easily understand them and follow them. They shouldn't have to consult an arborist or landscaper or surveyor every time they want to make a minor alteration to the landscape.
We hope the effort to upgrade the code will result in a tough but clear ordinance that lakeside residents will both understand and willingly follow to create an attractive and environmentally sound buffer around the lake.
Sensible rules for buffer zone around Lake Wylie deserve support of County Council.
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