Lakeside homeowners in a Forest Acres area neighborhood overwhelmingly agreed Tuesday to paying extra to repair their dam so Upper Rockford Lake can be refilled.
Neighbors voted 79-6 in an election overseen by county officials to borrow money as a group to repair the lake, according to unofficial results.
The “yes” vote creates a financial mechanism to repair flood damage left by record rain in October that devastated the dam and 22 others across Richland County. And it could signal a “yes” vote for three other neighborhoods in Forest Acres and Northeast Richland that want to repair or strengthen their dams.
The lake “was a beautiful thing to see every day,” said Alicia Beam, who was among the affirmative voters in Upper Rockyford. “We want it back – the sooner, the better.”
Docks around the lake overlook high weeds and fallen trees today, with Gills Creek winding quietly through the lake’s bed.
Only owners of the 61 homes abutting Upper Rockford Lake will pay more, either in higher property taxes or a fee of up to $1,500 apiece for as long as 30 years. Some residents petitioned the county to hold the vote, getting enough signatures to move forward.
The ballot measure capped the loan amount at $1.5 million to fix the dam, reopen Overcreek Road atop it and set aside money for upkeep.
It’s uncertain yet how soon the project can be finished.
“We want to do it the right way,” said Tom Teuber, president of the Upper Rockyford Lake Owners Association. “We’ll take the time we need to do it the right way.”
Engineers are developing a plan that must be approved by state dam safety officials.
“This is the first step,” Teuber said of the go-ahead at the ballot. “Other steps are ahead of us.”
The 85 people voting meant nearly two-thirds of the 129 voters in the Upper Rockyford Lake area went to the polls.
Residents in the three other neighborhoods will cast their ballots Aug. 23.
An extra tax is necessary since the manmade lakes are privately owned, which virtually rules out federal, state and county aid for dam repairs, county officials said.
Upper Rockford Lake homeowners who favored the plan said it seems the best way to assure the lake they miss is restored once the dam is fixed.
“We want to see the lake again,” said homeowner Connie Rosenblum, who supported the ballot measure. “Its scenery is beautiful.”
Maurice Duperre, one of the few homeowners to vote “no,” said the plan has “no limits” on what improvements can be undertaken in the name of dam repairs.
A board appointed by County Council will take charge of the project, including deciding how much more homeowners will pay.
The first assessment will appear on property tax bills mailed this fall.
Three other neighborhoods – Lower Rockyford Lake, Cary Lake and Beaver Lake – will decide on a similar plan for lakeside homeowners at separate ballots held simultaneously Aug. 23.
Upper Rockyford sets an example for others, although it may not be practical for all neighborhoods, County Councilman Greg Pearce said.
“This is the vehicle we encourage them to use,” he said.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483
First of four
The Upper Rockyford Lake neighborhood is the first of four areas in Richland County to decide on taxing lakeside homeowners extra for repair of flood-damaged dams at mandmade lakes.
Three other neighborhoods – Lower Rockyford Lake, Cary Lake and Beaver Lake – will decide on a similar plan at separate ballots held simultaneously Aug. 23.