Tryon ponders money spent on lake zoning

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An aerial photo of Lake Lanier. (photo submitted)

Tryon officials recently posed questions related to what exactly the town’s role should be in enforcing zoning around Lake Lanier. Tryon owns the lake bed, but the properties surrounding the lake all exist within Greenville County, S.C.
The issue has come up during the last two Tryon Town Council meetings when Dave Eller, who owns property on the lake, asked Tryon officials what they are going to do about a boat dock that he said was extended past what Tryon’s zoning rules allow.
This is not the first time Tryon has faced the issue. Since the town is considered a property owner of the lake bed, the Tryon’s only recourse is to sue the boat dock owner and get a judge to order the building in violation of town regulations to be torn down or brought into compliance.
During a meeting held Dec. 20, some Tryon council members asked what could be done to allow the city to stop zoning the lake, considering lake residents do not pay city taxes. Tryon owns the lakebed in order to treat its water to serve Tryon, Tryon Township and Lake Lanier residents. The lake is located in Greenville County, S.C., which zones all property not located over the water, while Tryon has regulations, not ordinances, for property built over the water.
“Can we investigate what it would take for us to disengage (from zoning the lake)?” asked Tryon Mayor Alan Peoples. “In the meantime, is council interested in getting an attorney?”
Councilman Roy Miller said anytime the town enforces zoning on the lake it’s spending Tryon taxpayer money.
“We do have regulations on the lake but where is the end on this?” Miller asked. “The mayor said ‘disengage.’ I think that’s a viable alternative.”
Tryon resident Bill Crowell suggested giving the enforcement of the lake to its homeowners’ association, the Lake Lanier Civic Association (LLCA), but Tryon attorney Bailey Nager said he doesn’t think that’s possible especially since not all lake property owners are members of the LLCA.
Crowell said there are no laws on the water since the S.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) declared it a private lake and no longer patrol it.
“I see a lot of underage drinking,” Crowell said. “Someone’s going to get killed. I think that since we’ve got the mountain water we should just make sure the water’s clean and not worry about it.”
Councilman Doug Arbogast said if lake residents expect the citizens of Tryon to solve problems there, then he thinks Tryon residents should be able to use the lake.
Tryon had a case several years ago where a boathouse was built against the town’s regulations and the town did sue through the Greenville County courts. The property owner said during the lawsuit that he would fix the problems, so the suit was dropped, but according to Tryon officials the boathouse was never fixed.
Eller first approached the town in November with complaints regarding additions on the boat dock adjacent to his in third basin. The town has said it approved a zoning permit because the plans adhered to the town’s regulations, but according to Eller the work actually done does not meet those standards. Greenville County can issue a building permit after the property owner produces a Tryon zoning permit.
Part of the town’s regulations, according to information stated at the Dec. 20 meeting, is that a dock cannot extend over the water further than 25 feet.
Tryon council did not come to any decisions on Dec. 20 but some council members suggested contacting the town’s former Greenville County attorney to get a quote for this case. They also suggested that code enforcer Joey Davis to go to the property to measure and determine what regulations are in conflict with the addition. Council suggested putting the issue on its January agenda.