As winter gives way to spring, the call of the outdoors and its scenic beauty is difficult to resist.
In the peaceful neighborhood surrounding Lake Marie in DeBary, there is a controversy over the property rights of those who want quiet enjoyment of their natural setting and the property rights of those who want active recreation on the water. Whose rights get priority — Jet-Ski riders and boaters or those who want tranquility?
The two factions took their feud to DeBary City Hall March 1.
“Everybody that rides on the lake, we all wear our life jackets. Everything we ride is legal,” Jordan Salyers told the City Council. “If they don’t like people using the lake for lake activities, maybe they should move off the lake.”
“High-speed watercraft have invaded our shores,” Joyce Crane said, in a rebuttal. “They want to see how fast they could go.”
Crane also said those riding motorized vessels make waves that have damaged sea walls of homeowners and have frightened away birds.
“Some of the residents watched in disbelief as our feathered friends disappeared in the brush or flew away. Paradise lost,” she said.
Liz Goodwin supports the use of motorized watercraft on Lake Marie. As well as noting her son sometimes rides on the lake, Goodwin said allowing motor-powered craft gives a boost to property values. Realtors, she noted, have told her that if motorized watercraft are barred from the lake, the property values will decline.
“It’s appealing to someone buying a home knowing that they can use small watercraft in their backyard,” she added.
The counterargument followed.
“The problem we’re having is with Jet-Skis,” Mark Albrecht said, adding waves from the speeding machines erode the sand onshore and bring about the collapse of sea walls. Moreover, he continued, the riders make noise, often at night, that disturbs the peace of him and his neighbors.
“This is an issue with everybody around this lake,” Albrecht noted.
“No lights on any of them, and they’re flying back and forth as fast as they can,” he also said. “That’s why we bought this house — so we could enjoy it, and now we can’t.”
Albrecht said speeding boaters sometimes curse or show “the finger” to him and other critics of their fun.
Lake Marie is a private lake. Each of the waterfront lots extends to the middle of the lake.
As for damage to the lakefront and sea walls, Stephen Domenico expressed doubt about boaters causing such problems.
“It’s not tearing the property up. The hurricanes just did more than Jet-Skis,” he said. “I see these young people having a good time during the day. We don’t need to deter what they do.”
The controversy between neighbors around Lake Marie was not on the City Council’s agenda. Rather, the homeowners complaining about the boats showed up to speak at the outset of the meeting. City Council members listened to the concerns of the Lake Marie homeowners.
“It is our understanding that the state has jurisdiction,” Mayor Karen Chasez told the neighbors. “It may not be [the] St. Johns [River Water Management District]; it may be [the Florida] Fish and Wildlife [Conservation Commission]. … I would like the city manager and the city attorney to revisit this.”
Chasez said city officials need to “find out who has jurisdiction on that lake.”
Neither Chasez nor the council as a whole set a deadline for submitting a report on possible solutions to the bitter feud.
“I do believe that the best solution for this would be for the community to come together,” Chasez said.
Whatever the outcome of the research or a possible solution, Council Member William Sell said both sides may need to compromise.
“I don’t see the problem going away,” he concluded. “We need to come to some sort of resolution.”