Dam-front residents along North Bank and West Bank have taken a lot of abuse since March 2015.
ODNR’s March 2015 ‘Blitzkrieg’ campaign to take total control of the dam project and our local economy portrayed them as wealthy and selfish obstructionists who for years stood in the way of ODNR’s efforts to maintain and upgrade the dam. That was complete fiction as ODNR didn’t even mow their part of the dam, leaving even that most basic maintenance task to residents. But ODNR successfully divided the lake community at a time when we needed to stand together against ODNR’s onslaught.
The near draining of the lake has hurt all lake residents – dam front, water front and no front. Our common point of agreement – more water as soon as possible was turned against us. Any effort to question ODNR’s plans or offer alternatives was summarily rejected with ODNR insisting that they would only delay the project and the new Buckeye Lake.
ODNR’s plan to build the 30-foot wide berm and a seepage barrier by working 20 hour days, six to seven days a week sounded good on the surface. Their goal to finish it by June 1 this year left many residents and visitors expecting at least a partial lake recreation season. After paying millions in overtime, ODNR actually finished Phase 1 a few days early.
It was a wasted effort as a number of long-time lake observers had forecasted. Waiting until May or early June to let the lake fill is too late. When the stop logs were installed May 26 at the AMIL spillway in Buckeye Lake Village, the water level was 3.8 inches above ODNR’s new ‘winter pool.’ This summer the lake level peaked at 7.8 inches above the new ‘winter pool,’ a measly four inches above its level on May 26. The result – another lost recreation season.
ONDR’s refusal to listen to anyone familiar with the lake has wasted millions spent on unnecessary overtime and raised false hopes. It also abused year-round dam front residents and nearby neighbors, subjecting them to nearly 24/7 noise, bright lights, dust, diesel fumes and cement dust. Since July, the project appears abandoned. The new berm and the three staging areas look like western ghost towns without the tumbleweed. More pelicans have been sighted on Buckeye Lake than contractors or ODNR staff.
Dam front residents have also had to live with a five-foot high chain link fence just inches from their homes for a year. It will be there for at least two more years. Trees, docks and manicured lake front yards are all gone. Water front residents around the lake now face towering weeds in many areas. Basic questions about docks are still unanswered making property values uncertain.
The latest assault on our economy and property rights is ODNR’s effort to coerce local zoning officials to extend ODNR control onto private property. ODNR wants local zoning officials to refuse to issue zoning permits for any dam front home repair or construction unless ODNR specifically approves the project. Buckeye Lake Mayor Clay Carroll, without any discussion with village council members or residents, agreed to let Zoning Inspector Bob Jordan do ODNR’s biding.
The tension, which has been building for several months, boiled over in Monday night’s council meeting. Recently Jordan refused to issue a zoning permit for a new car port for a North Bank resident that is well behind the old and to be abandoned dam. Permit requests to replace outside stairs and to rebuild on an existing foundation have also been denied.
Council members Bob Masone and Tim Ryan raised excellent points in the meeting. Ryan asked for anything in writing from ODNR on the issue only to learn there is nothing. He and Masone said ODNR is trying to extend its control to private property without any authority to do so.
Carroll should be protecting residents’ property rights, not allowing the zoning inspector to do ODNR’s dirty work. Carroll’s action is creating a large legal liability for the village. At some point, a property owner is going to sue the village for refusing to issue a zoning permit for a building or repair project that clearly meets the zoning code requirements. The zoning code does not give ODNR ANY role in determining whether the project meets the VILLAGE zoning requirements.
Carroll spoke with unnamed ODNR officials Wednesday and still has nothing in writing from them. He’s waiting for something that isn’t coming. ODNR knows they have no authority over private property, but so far they have been able to get Carroll to give it to them. If ODNR wants or believes it needs that authority, let them get it from the state legislature or a judge. In the meantime, Carroll and Jordan are violating both the zoning code and their oath of office. If village zoning requirements are met, issue the zoning permit. If ODNR objects, they are free to try to stop the project.