June 20, 2008

Gainesville Proposes Set of New Moss Lake Ordinances

By Andy Hogue, Gainesville Daily Register, Texas

Jun. 20--MOSS LAKE -- Proposed changes to regulations on docks and floating structures on a city reservoir are intended to avoid confusion among waterfront residents, Gainesville's city manager said.

Proposed rules also seek to prohibit houseboats, require liability insurance on docks and increase annual dock fees.

On Tuesday, the Gainesville City Council voted unanimously on a first reading to amend Moss Lake rules and regulations. A second reading is scheduled for July 1 to fulfill the city charter's requirement of three separate readings.

The proposed amendments are due to increased development and activity at Moss Lake, according to a summary of city council meeting actions submitted by the city secretary. The new ordinance, if approved, would require all dock owners to provide the city with contact information as well as the specifications on their docks.

Docks would not be allowed to extend more than 50 feet into or toward the lake. Current non-permitted docks that are at least 50 percent complete would be grandfathered and would be exempt from certain specification requirements, but only until the dock loses 40 percent of its original value, according to Cooke County Appraisal District appraisals.

Exempted facilities would not be allowed to expand in any manner, and if the dock is under construction, the owner must still procure a permit to complete the facility.

All dock owners, if the ordinance passes, would have to pay for an annual dock permit by Aug. 1 to avoid a penalty.

Variances cannot be granted for docks and floating platforms, according to City Manager Barry Sullivan, and city officials have direct authority on what goes on the water. The city of Gainesville owns property up to the 715-foot elevation line, which at this point is the waterfront as the lake is considered full.

Anything built on the lake, such as a dock or floating structure, is on city property, Sullivan said.

Recently, Lewisville resident Mike Pucciarello, who plans on moving to his second home at Moss Lake with his family soon, expanded his dock beyond what is currently allowed.

Pucciarello could not be reached for comment by press time.

Sullivan said Pucciarello was "very gracious" when approaching the city about the notice of his violation, which was given by the Gainesville Police Department while patrolling the lake in a small boat.

Pucciarello filed with the city's appeals board. The appeals board on Monday voted 3-2 to deny the request for relief.

Sullivan said the new rules, once they take effect, would allow Pucciarello and anyone else confused about city regulations between 2004 (when an ordinance was first drafted) and the time when the new ordinance goes into effect to be grandfathered in.

"So the idea here is let's get everything clear and start over fresh," Sullivan said. "... But we also don't want to set any bad precedents."

The post-2004 rules limited a dock to 50 feet in length. With limited patrols by Gainesville Police, Sullivan said, rule enforcement was sporadic and there was much misinformation among Moss Lake residents on what the rules were.

Gainesville Police recently began a regular patrol of the lake, and expect a full-size police boat to be introduced soon.

Sullivan said he has plans to meet with Moss Lake residents on Aug. 2 to discuss changes to the regulations.

Moss Lake was built in 1966 -- a 380-acre reservoir at the juncture of the north and south forks of Fish Creek -- with the primary purpose of serving as a water supply for Gainesville.

The city of Gainesville maintains a public-use area and two boat ramps on the lake.

Moss Lake is named in memory of the late Hubert H. Moss, a local school superintendent and the one who envisioned a reservoir for Gainesville.

For information contact the city at 668-4500.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at [email protected]


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