Neighbors Dispute Over Community Lake

By: Candace Sweat; Lanetra Bennett Email
By: Candace Sweat; Lanetra Bennett Email

UPDATE 2-3 6:40PM by Lanetra Bennett

A flooding complaint has started a chain of events for one Leon County community.

Forcing a Lake Warner homeowner to spell out to county commissioners her intentions to sue.

We've been following the story for a few months now of a Leon County woman who filed an application to drain Lake Warner after she was asked to make repairs to a dam on her property.

Now, her attorney is notifying the county and the North Florida Water Management District of intentions to file a lawsuit.

Judith Lyons babysits her grandson several times a week, and says they enjoy going outside to watch the animals.

Lyons said, "Geese, and Great Blue Herons and White Herons and ducks. There's frogs and turtles. This lake makes it possible to see all this wildlife. They wouldn't be here if there wasn't water for them."

Many are worried there won't be water in Lake Warner for anything or anyone to enjoy because their neighbor, Jan Sebastian, applied to revert the lake back to its natural wetland state.

Sebastian's attorney says Sebastian didn't have much choice because the North Florida Water Management District told Sebastian that her unstable dam caused flooding.

To fix it, the attorney says it would cost more than $750,000.

The attorney has now sent Leon County and the water management district a letter of intent to sue.

Bateman said, "One of our issues also is whether the water management district has the right to come to a private property owner and tell her that she is required to maintain a dam for the benefit of all her neighbors at their expense. It simply seems to be arbitrary, unfair, and perhaps unconstitutional."

The claim says repairs are needed on Sebastian's dam only because of repairs the county made to dams on three other lakes in the late 90s.

Lyons' message is, "Keep working on it folks, keep talking. You can find a solution for sure."

Sebastian's attorney has to notify the county and water management district 180 days before filing a lawsuit. Therefore, this latest action is only notification . Bateman says the actual lawsuit has not been filed.

Bateman says he hopes to talk things out with all parties, including neighbors who are concerned about the lake, without having to file the lawsuit.

Leon County Commissioners say they are advised by their lawyer not to comment, and the North Florida Water Management District has no comment at this time.

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UPDATE 2-2-2011

New court documents have been filed against Leon County. Those documents are attached to the article above.

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REPORTER: Candace Sweat

October 29, 2010 - Jan Sebastian of Tallahassee submitted a permit request to the Northwest Florida Water Management District to have Lake Warner permanently drained to help bring her property up to code standard.

Sebastian says the lake is flooding her yard. Nearly a dozen people in the neighborhood have written letters to the District asking them not to grant Sebastian the permit.

Some say Sebastian's proposal is not worth the long term effects it will have in their community.

"We see all sorts of wildlife out here and we get out in our canoe and paddle around and do some fishing once in a while. So both from an environmental perspective as well as a recreational perspective we' would be losing a lot, and it would also decrease our property values," said Bree VanOss, with the Lake Warner Concerned Citizens.

Sebastian's Attorney contacted WCTV. He says his client's hand is being forced by government regulation. He says she is looking for a solution.


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