Two months after the Town of Round Hill’s Sleeter Lake Park was initially scheduled to open, the rules governing the use of the lake has yet to be finalized—meaning a summer 2018 grand opening for the 11-acre lakefront park looks less likely.
For the past few months, the town has been working with the Round Hill Owner’s Association, which oversees the 1,100 homes within The Villages at Round Hill and owns the 100-acre lake, to develop a set of rules regulating public activity on the lake once the park is opened. Although the HOA planned for the rules to be finalized early last month, HOA President Joe Luppino-Esposito said that there are still some outlying safety and insurance issues that need to be worked out between the HOA and the town. “It’s a matter of hammering out the smaller details at this point,” he said.
To give the residents an idea of where the process stands, the HOA held a resident-only meeting last Thursday night. While most residents agreed on the rules themselves, Luppino-Esposito said some were still concerned about enforcement. “They want to get a sense of what that looks like and what that feels like,” he said.
According to Mayor Scott Ramsey, the park property will be patrolled in several ways. In addition to installing security cameras and regularly having town staff member visit the property, Ramsey said the town should have an agreement worked out with the county’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department to help with rule enforcement by the time the park opens. “I am confident the town and HOA can work together on enforcement to ensure a safe and enjoyable park experience,” he said.
Many of the The Villages at Round Hill residents are also concerned about park-goers accessing HOA property via its private dock, which sits about 1,000 feet across the lake from the town park. The concern is now to know whether those docking at the HOA property are Villages resident or trespassers. Luppino-Esposito said the HOA is considering issuing stickers or passes for residents to prove that they can legally access the dock. “That’s something we’re all thinking about,” he said.
This scenario also raises some concern among HOA board members, since trespassers could get hurt and attempt to sue the HOA. Luppino-Esposito said the HOA is now working to have its name added to the town’s insurance policy to protect itself against potential lawsuits.
Ramsey said the town feels that adding the HOA onto its policy would be the right thing to do.
As for the draft rule set, Luppino-Esposito said the most debated rule among residents dealt with the number of non-gasoline powered boats to be allowed on the lake at any given time. Seeing where negotiations stand now, that number will most likely be a town-proposed 18.
“We were very happy with that proposal,” Luppino-Esposito said. “That was such a big one for us—people want it to be a quiet lake.”
The draft rules also define a boat as being 6-18 feet long, allow for them to be powered by an electric motor with a maximum of 3.5 horsepower and require their operators to be at least 16 years old.
Gas-powered engines are prohibited, however a handful of lakeside property owners who lived on the lake before Oakhill Properties developed The Villages at Round Hill are still allowed to use them.
The HOA and town are also considering prohibiting swimming and ice-skating and rules that allow for catch-and-release fishing only.
Luppino-Esposito said that hopes the HOA and town can come to an agreement on the rules and insurance soon so the town can open the park before the end of summer. He said that the HOA would allow residents to see the rules before they’re signed.
Reaching an agreement on the rules and opening the park would end a three-decade-long process that began in 1990 with Oak Hill Properties’ proffer, which dedicated 11 acres to the town for a lakefront park and required the town and HOA to agree on a set of rules that would specifically limit the amount of fishing and the number of non-gasoline powered boats on the lake. Since then, the town failed to reach agreements with the developer in 2007, 2012 and 2014. Recently, however, the town started negotiations anew with the new, resident-controlled HOA.
While Ramsey said that town staff and council members are frustrated that the town has failed to reach an agreement with the HOA on multiple occasions, he is hopeful that they will come to terms soon.
Although the Town Council took no action on the rule set at Thursday’s Town Council meeting, Ramsey said the town is ready to open the park and is currently waiting to hear back from the HOA to schedule another meeting.
“Things are moving in a positive direction right now,” he said. “I believe the HOA is sincere when they say they want to help the town get this park open.”