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Four Richland County neighborhoods weigh new tax for dam repairs

From left, Grady Adkins,Todd Chambers and Tom Teuber, president of the Upper Rockyford Lake Homeowners Association, survey the dam at Overcreek Road after flooding in October.
From left, Grady Adkins,Todd Chambers and Tom Teuber, president of the Upper Rockyford Lake Homeowners Association, survey the dam at Overcreek Road after flooding in October. gmelendez@thestate.com

Four small neighborhoods are in the forefront of developing a way to repair some of the 45 Richland County dams destroyed or severely damaged by floods from record rain in October.

Homeowners in each of the Northeast Richland neighborhoods will go to the polls in the next two months to decide whether to tax themselves extra – possibly for as long as three decades – to replace dams that either broke or need strengthening.

In three of the four areas, houses now ring an empty lake bed. A “yes” vote would restore the dams and bring back water. Beaver Lake’s dam, which still holds back water, would be strengthened.

The first vote occurs Tuesday in the Upper Rockyford Lake neighborhood.

The first vote occurs Tuesday in the Upper Rockyford Lake neighborhood of the Forest Acres area.

It will be followed by a similar ballot Aug. 23 in three areas: those adjoining Lower Rockyford Lake, Cary Lake in Arcadia Lakes and Beaver Lake in WildeWood. Although the ballots are simultaneous, each neighborhood will decide separately on the plan.

Arcadia Lakes Mayor Mark Huguley is encouraged that the homeowners around Cary Lake want to restore “an iconic part of our community, part of our identity.”

Each referendum comes after homeowners in the neighborhoods submitted petitions seeking it.

Each neighborhood would add up to $3,500 per tract to annual property tax bills.

Each neighborhood would add up to $3,500 per tract to annual property tax bills to fix the dams that created manmade lakes that long have been the centerpiece of the neighborhoods.

The new assessment in each area would create a mechanism enabling homeowners as a group to obtain loans to fix the dams as well as roads over them and to provide the upkeep to meet state standards for the length of the loans’ repayment.

Preliminary estimates are that repairs at each dam will cost from $500,000 to $1 million, according to Lawrence Flynn, an attorney who helped develop the ballot plan for each neighborhood.

That’s a heavy burden for owners of lakeside tracts ranging from 18 to 61 in number, depending on the neighborhood.

But it appears to be their only choice.

Federal and state aid is unlikely for dam repairs to allow the lakes to refill instead of remaining muddy pits sprinkled with weeds.

“This is a good alternative for lake homeowners to replace what was lost unexpectedly,” said state Rep. Beth Bernstein, who lives nearby.

If a majority of voters approve, the new assessments will be included in tax bills mailed out this fall.

The amount that would be owed in each neighborhood has not yet been determined. That will be decided by separate boards created by County Council to oversee repairs and decide among financing options that could last up to 30 years.

Neighborhood leaders have checked with state officials on specific dam renovations needed.

State-approved repairs are underway on Beaver Lake’s dam.

State officials have approved repairs underway on Beaver Lake’s dam, records show. But none of the other neighborhoods has received a go-ahead yet.

Spreading the cost through an extra tax seems the best choice to assure the dams are fixed and kept in good shape, WildeWood neighborhood leader Jim Lehman said.

“It really has to do with being good neighbors,” he said. “No one want to put a hardship on anyone in making repairs. This is the least disruptive.”

Tim Flach: 803-771-8483

Who votes when

Here is when lakeside homeowners in four Richland County neighborhoods cast ballots on allowing themselves to be taxed extra for dam repairs:

Tuesday: Upper Rockford Lake

Aug. 23: Cary Lake, Lower Rockyford Lake and Beaver Lake

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