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Recreational Use of Lakes Up for Discussion at AMSCD Meeting

The Ave Maria Stewardship Community District is beginning a discussion at its Aug. 4 meeting on possible restrictions on recreational use of district lakes in Ave Maria.

Recreational use of the lakes has mainly been fishing from the shore or bridges, a popular activity, but this year there have been reports of other uses such as canoeing.

"We want to kick off a discussion," said District Manager Todd Wodraska, and the district's attorney has prepared a background report for the meeting. That report recommends not allowing any recreational actiity but Mr. Wodraska said he is hoping there will be a broad discussion among the community. Click here for the attorney's recommendations at the bottom of this article.

The main district lakes are the long lake running along the western edge of the Ave Maria University camjpus and the lakes to the north and west of the town center. Their primary purpose is for stormwater control.

The other main item on the agenda for the Aug. 4 meeting is the the approval of the budget for the next fiscal year, which has no change in assessments for individual homeowners.

The AMSCD meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 4, at the offices of the Ave Maria Master Association in the town center. Anyone is welcome to attend and comment on any part of the agenda, which is below.

The Ave Maria Stewardship Community District is a special-purpose board whose primary responsibility is the infrastructure of the town including main roads and bridges and stormwater management.

AGENDA
AVE MARIA STEWARDSHIP COMMUNITY DISTRICT
Ave Maria Master Association (office/fitness center)
5076 Annunciation Circle, Suite 103
Ave Maria, Florida 34142

REGULAR BOARD MEETING & PUBLIC HEARING
August 4, 2015
9:00 a.m.

A. Call to Order
B. Pledge of Allegiance
C. Proof of Publication
D. Establish Quorum
E. Additions or Deletions to Agenda
F. Comments from the Public for Items Not on the Agenda
G. Approval of Minutes

Public Hearing
   1. Proof of Publication
   2. Receive Public Comments on Fiscal Year 2015/2016 Final Budget
   3. Consider Resolution No. 2015-05 – Adopting a Fiscal Year 2015/2016 Final Budget
   4. Consider Resolution No. 2015-06 – Adopting an Annual Assessment Resolution for Fiscal Year 2015/2016
   5. Consider Resolution No. 2015-07 – Adopting a Fiscal Year 2015/2016 Master Irrigation Utility System Budget
I. Old Business
   1. Status Report on Golf Cart Designation
     • Audience Comment
J. New Business
   1. Consider Resolution No. 2015-08 – Adopting a Fiscal Year 2015/2016 Meeting Schedule
     • Audience Comment
   2. Consider Appointment of Audit Committee & Approval of Evaluation Criteria
     • Audience Comment
   3. Discussion Regarding Recreation Use of District Lakes
     • Audience Comment
   4. Discussion Regarding Maintenance of Non-AMSCD Owned Lakes
     • Audience Comment
K. Administrative Matters
   1. Legal Report
   2. Engineer Report
   3. Manager's Report
L. Board Members Comments
   M. Adjourn

------
MEMORANDUM

TO: Ave Maria Stewardship Community District
Board of Supervisors
FROM: Jonathan T. Johnson, Alyssa L. Cameron
RE: Recreational Use of District Lakes
DATE: July 23, 2015

We have been asked to explore the benefits and disadvantages of allowing recreational use of the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District lakes ("District Lakes"). This memorandum identifies the District's options and limitations regarding such use.

The District Lakes are portions of the stormwater management infrastructure improvements which are part of the Master Capital Improvement Program for Ave Maria Stewardship Community District as outlined in the May 2, 2006 Engineer's Report. The improvements were designed to meet the permit criteria of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) and Collier County Development Services.1

As the District Lakes are stormwater management infrastructure improvements acquired by the District with public funds, the District has two options regarding use of the lakes: 
(1) Adopt a policy that the District Lakes were constructed for the sole purpose of being a drainage and stormwater management utility and stating that there is no expectation of public access.

(2) Adopt a policy allowing recreational use on the District Lakes. Should the District choose this approach, it will have to consider a number of items including those discussed below.

(a) The District may trigger a legal requirement that the District Lakes be held open for use by all the members of the public, not just the residents of the District. The District could adopt a policy requiring non-residents to pay a fee to use the District Lakes, however this would prove to be difficult to enforce. Further, once the District adopts a policy that the District Lakes are not solely a drainage and stormwater

(b) The District would have to establish permissible uses of the District Lakes. The District would have to determine which of many competing uses are allowed on the lakes. Such uses to consider would include but are not limited to swimming, fishing, canoeing, gas motor boating, electric motor boating, and stand up paddle boarding.

(c) The District must consider that it would be held to a higher standard of maintenance for the lakes and would have to ensure that District Lakes are fit for such use (i.e. are no holes in the ground and that side slopes are stable and at proper grade). Furthermore, the District should consider a policy for maintenance of local alligator populations.

(d) As stated above, the District Lakes were constructed as part of the stormwater management system and were designed to capture pollution. These areas are intended to collect street and yard drainage, often containing high concentrations of nutrients that would lead to excessive algal production if allowed to enter natural waters. Several water management districts and governmental entities have released publications and statements advising that stormwater ponds are not intended to be used for swimming, fishing or other recreational purposes.

(e) While allowing recreational use of District Lakes would certainly increase the likelihood of injury claims against the District, pursuant to section 768.28, Florida Statutes, the District has limited liability for such claims of injury. Furthermore, the District has insurance coverage for the maximum amount of liability available for recovery under the statutory provision. Therefore, while a factor to consider, liability concerns should not be the primary reason for adopting either policy.

(f) Other items to consider are noise issues, permissible uses of lake banks, and similar access issues.

Conclusion

After considering the above items, we recommend that the District adopt a policy that the District Lakes were constructed for the sole purpose of being a drainage and stormwater management utility. Several other Districts across the state have adopted such policies after consideration of the above discussed items. Allowing recreational use of the District Lakes would be an administrative challenge and any policies limiting use would be difficult to enforce.

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