July 2, 2008

Moss Lake Residents Protest at City Council

By Andy Hogue, Gainesville Daily Register, Texas

Jul. 2--Cooke County's District Attorney-elect was among about 60 people present at the Gainesville City Council meeting Tuesday night to protest changes to dock and boating regulations on Moss Lake.

A short agenda and the City Council voting to table the motion resulted in a much shorter meeting than anticipated, with the Council going into closed, executive session by 7:15 p.m. on unrelated matters.

The Council voted 6-0 (with Mayor Pro Tem Jim Goldsworthy absent) to table the second reading of the ordinance, of which a first reading passed June 19.

"It would do away with fishing tournaments," Janice Warder, Moss Lake resident said, "and we're afraid of what might happen to the store.:"

Warder said she was afraid dock fees and mandatory insurance would drive away weekend hobbyists who have property at Hubert H. Moss Lake, a reservoir of the city of Gainesville used by many for recreational and residential purposes.

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.

Other proposed rules include:

--Floating facilities, including houseboats, that are not permanently affixed to land by a dock or walkway would be prohibited. Any floating facilities that do not adhere to the ordinance would be removed by Aug. 1, 2009.

--The permit fee for construction of a boat dock would increase to $100. The annual dock fee would also increase to $50. Liability insurance coverage would be required under the ordinance -- At least $300,000 coverage for dock owners, and $300,000 coverage for boat owners. An annual boat permit fee of $35 would be required for each boat placed, used, or operated on the waters of the lake.

--Withdrawing water from the lake without a permit, issued by the Community Services Department, and payment of an annual fee of $500 per year, would not be allowed.

Barry Sullivan, city manager, said the city recently started patrolling Moss Lake and discovered several dilapidated docks, as well as some that are outside the boundaries allowed by ordinances last adopted in 2004. The city of Gainesville owns the lake as a water supply and can regulate water platforms, docks and similar structures that extend into the water.

"It seems like an awful lot of man-hours go into Moss Lake, when God knows we need them on the streets of Gainesville," Warder said, speaking as a resident.

She said getting rid of out-of-repair docks is a plus to new rules, but other restrictions were put together "very, very quickly" and should be looked at.

Warder said most of the residents oppose the insurance requirement.

"At no other public lake that we've been able to determine requires insurance on a boat," she said.

Mayor Glenn Loch appointed Goldsworthy, Councilman Ray Nichols and Sullivan to a committee to meet with five members of the Moss Lake community to discuss changes to the city code of ordinances.

Nichols urged anyone present planning on making substantive changes to a dock to obtain a permit from the city.

Steve Smith, Moss Lake resident and owner of the Moss Lake store, said the tighter restrictions are already discouraging business owners, residents and property owners.

"I've heard a lot of rumblings, and heard that a lot of people aren't coming back," he said.

Charlie Pickett, a resident of nine years, said he has seen little crime and mischievous behavior, but is glad to have additional police protection.

Pickett asked for clarification on certain requirements -- about whether all watercraft requires insurance.

"You may as well put a sticker on an inner tube," he said, drawing some laughs.

He asked if the new ordinance was proposed to raise revenue or to make the lake safer. He added that he was concerned with provisions in the ordinance which give power to the "sole discretion" of the City Council.

"I don't think that's the American way," he said. "We're a democratic society."

Pickett said the lake is under the control of Gainesville, a city of about 15,000, and is not a private resort community such as Lake Kiowa. He said because of Moss Lake's public nature, there should me more citizen input into regulations.

In other business, the Council voted 6-0 to:

--Rezone 38.6 acres at the former Par III Ranch from agricultural to commercial to accommodate a 125-unit apartment development and businesses to be built by Leadership Properties (see June 9 Register).

--Recognize the Independence Day celebration and requesting temporary closure of a portion of California Street/FM 51 in accordance with agreement with the Texas Department of Transportation.

In reports, Harriett Dickson and Werner Hermes of the Morton Museum gave a report on progress made at the museum and historic Santa Fe Depot, and requested continued funding.

The Council met in executive session to discuss awarding a bid for the sale of 4.57 acres of the former watershop property at the corner of California Street and the Interstate Highway 35 frontage road.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at [email protected]


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