The Case of the Disappearing Water View

guest blog by Deborah Goonan

Now you see it now you don’t

One of my pet peeves about HOA master planned communities is the sales promotion of retention ponds as “lakes” with adjacent properties sold at a premium price for “water view” lots.

These “lakes” are man made bodies of water excavated during original construction, with the purpose of creating a catchment area for ground water and storm runoff. Most of them have little recreation value (there are a few exceptions with man made lakes large enough for boating and fishing) although they do tend to attract birds and wildlife if the ponds are maintained in healthy condition.

But these ponds are expensive to maintain. Storm water runoff contains all sorts of impurities and contaminants, from automotive fluids and pet feces to lawn fertilizers and pesticides. In fact, the pond serves as a place for impurities to settle or naturally dissipate before flowing downstream to interconnected ponds, streams and rivers, and sensitive wetlands. That’s why your HOA probably prohibits swimming in the water, and fishing is limited to catch and release. Trust me, you do not want to eat those fish.

All of these impurities are bound to throw off the chemical balance of the pond, so “Lake Maintenance” companies are hired to remove floating debris, and treat the water with chemicals in an attempt to keep the water clean and fresh. Periodically, a properly maintained pond needs to be dredged to remove built up muck from the bottom, and regular shoreline repair is needed to prevent erosion of the bank side into the pond. It costs thousands of dollars per year to properly maintain each pond.

Drive around any HOA community in Florida that is more than a decade old, and you will notice that some of these ponds look better than others. When not properly maintained, the water turns foul smelling and cloudy, algae blooms become prevalent (some of it toxic), the fish stocks die off, and water levels begin to fluctuate. What was once a pleasant vista evolves into an eyesore and a public nuisance. Even the birds and animals don’t come around anymore.

But homeowners in Woodland Villages, Ocala, have an even bigger problem: recurring sinkholes have drained their 5-acre pond 3 times in the past year, (five times since 1996) leaving behind a giant mud hole. It seems the ducks knew something was awry, because they started using the community pool instead of the “lake” about a month before two sinkholes opened up in June. The insurance company was contacted, and the pond was repaired, but in late July, the same two sinkholes opened up, larger than ever, and swallowed up the pond once again!

Makes you wonder whether you really want one of those pricey “water view” lots.

Article on sinkholes opening up and draining the pond in July

Article on sinkholes draining the pond in June plus prior history

Article on removal of ducks from the pool a month before the sinkholes



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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

1 thought on “The Case of the Disappearing Water View

  1. Holly HOA

    I know of a gated community in Florida where the “water view” of a retention pond (and it is just a pond)was sold with lot premiums. Fast forward 15 years later and there’s a community of townhomes on the other side of the “water view”, less than 200′ away. The worst part is that the retention pond is maintained as a sterile retention pond: no native grasses at the pond edges, there’s fertilizer and pest control run-off from owner’s yard and the lawn maintenance company mows down to the water edge. It could have been a wonderful natural wildlife refuge. I blame the cities, counties, and water management districts for not requiring all retention ponds to be landscaped properly.


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