Lake community owners to vote on Watershed Improvement District (VA)

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Because its homeowners’ association cannot raise enough money to dredge Timber Lake, Campbell County recently approved a referendum vote to establish Virginia’s second Watershed Improvement District (WID).

According to The News & Advance, lake front homeowners will have a chance to vote for or against the WID on March 2. If a majority of homeowners votes in favor of the WID, an official election will take place on April 2.

The formal process of establishing a WID began in 2015, but gained momentum following extensive storm damage in 2016. Timber Lake homeowners have worked with Campbell County, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, to evaluate conditions at the lake.

Residents say that Timber Lake has shrunk from 80 acres to less than 60 acres in its 92-year lifespan because of sedimentation and erosion. Timberlake HOA estimates it will cost $500,000 to dredge silt from the lake’s coves, which is necessary to increase its capacity to prevent flooding and make it safe for navigation of boats.

The Robert E. Lee Soil & Water Conservation District will monitor the first WID referendum election on March 2nd. The organization says it looks forward to working with the Timberlake WID, if approved by voters.

Timber Lake residents get set for key vote on watershed improvement district

Rachel Mahoney, The News & Advance
Jan 25, 2019

Property owners and people living around Timber Lake will receive some special ballots this year asking them whether they believe a watershed improvement district — and the taxing authority that comes with it — should be formed for the lake.

It would take a simple majority of approval votes from two elections — one March 2 and one April 2 — to create the Timberlake Watershed Improvement District. This follows an order signed by Campbell County Circuit Court Judge John Cook in late December.

Read more:

Timber Lake residents get set for key vote on watershed improvement district

Background information on Timberlake HOA

After a severe flood in 1995, Campbell County (VA) homeowners surrounding Timber Lake knew they needed to rebuild the dam and take better care of their private lake. But, as a voluntary membership lake association, raising the funds to do so proved to be a huge challenge.

Most homeowners contributed to rebuilding the dam and dredging Timber Lake, but dozens of property owners did not pay.

More than a decade later, in 2007, Timberlake Homeowners Association revised its Bylaws, in an attempt to convince more homeowners to contribute to the long-term health and safety of Timberlake.

According to Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation adopted 2007, Timberlake is a voluntary membership HOA created to maintain the lake, including its dam and spillway. (Prior to 2007, homeowners relied entirely on voluntary contributions and lake memberships to support Timber Lake.)

Currently, HOA membership is divided into three classes, based upon a property owner’s level of commitment to maintaining Timberlake.

Class 1 owners agree to place a permanent restriction on their property deeds, committing their property to perpetual membership in Timberlake HOA. The covenant and restriction applies to future homeowners at the time a Class 1 member sells or transfer the property.

Class 2 members agree to a temporary commitment to help pay for lake maintenance, with a deed restriction that expires in 10 years. Assuming a Class 2 member joined the HOA in 2007, that member’s monetary commitment has already expired.

Class 3 members opt not to add a deed restriction, making no mandatory commitment to pay for lake maintenance.  However, a Class 3 member who wants to enjoy the benefits of lake association membership (recreational use of the lake), must pay higher annual assessments of $300.

Details are spelled out in the Bylaws for Timberlake HOA.

Every owner of a lot in the Timberlake Subdivision, situated in Campbell County, Virginia, shall be entitled to be a member of the Timberlake Homeowners Association, Inc. (hereinafter “the Association.”)

There shall be three classes of members. Class 1, 2 and 3. Class 1 members shall be individuals within the Timberlake Subdivision who place a permanent restriction on their property deed for membership in the Association. Class 2 members shall be individuals within the Timberlake Subdivision who place a ten year restriction on their property deeds for membership in the Association. Class 3 members shall be individuals within the Timberlake Subdivision who do not choose to place any restriction on their property deeds but who are willing to enter into contractual agreement with the Association for the appropriate dues assessment.

Class 1 members assessed at $200.00 per year as dues. Class 2 members assessed at $240.00 per year as dues. Class 3 members assessed at $300.00 per year as dues.

Note that off waterfront property owners shall be assessed at one-half of the above annual assessments. The owners of each of the above properties shall be entitled to one vote at any regular or special meeting of the Association. Adjustments in the above assessments shall not exceed the cost of living index in any calendar year.

Any member of a lower class membership may convert to a higher class membership and its coincident lower dues if the member wishes to commit themselves and their lot to the higher class’s commitment.

Source: Timberlake HOA Bylaws

More than a decade following the 2007 Bylaw amendments, there’s still not enough money to properly maintain Timber Lake.

According to a Dec. 2017 report in The News & Advance, the effort to create a WID began with 25 Timberlake residents, who petitioned the Robert E. Lee Soil & Water Conservation District about the creation of a district.

The proposed boundaries of watershed improvement district would span 212 acres, which includes 58.73-acre Timber Lake, and all shoreline property owners on Timber Lake and creeks that feed the lake.

Effect of creating a Watershed Improvement District

If a majority of lakefront homeowners vote in favor of the WID on March 2 and again on April 2, every property owner within the District will pay additional property taxes toward future maintenance of Timber Lake, even if they voted “no” on the referendum.

In essence, homeowners who, in the past, chose not to join Timberlake HOA, or who opted for Class 3 membership, will be forced to pay for maintenance of the lake, as part of the larger Robert E Lee Conservation District.

If approved, the amount of WID tax assessments will be determined and must be approved by a 2/3 vote of its members. Campbell County would collect WID assessments, just as it collects other property taxes.

In this way, a Timber Lake WID could help ensure future maintenance of the lake, its dam, and spillway.

If a majority of homeowners do not approve the WID, the HOA will continue to struggle to raise the money it needs to save Timber Lake.

 

Additional References:

Robert E. Lee Soil & Water Conservation District

Residents seek watershed improvement district for Timber Lake Alissa Smith, The News & Advance. Dec 10, 2017

LakeWID website

Title 10.1 Virginia code – Watershed Improvement Districts

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