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Boating divides renters, homeowners

Apartment renters on Lake Magdalene have until July 18 to work out a compromise in a dispute over boating on the waters that separate them from nearby homeowners. For the past few months, homeowners have complained that the residents of Lake Magdalene Arms never have practiced safe boating habits. In turn, when homeowners complained about the troubled waters, county officials closed a temporary boat ramp used by the renters.

If no compromise is reached in the dispute, the county planning department will make a recommendation.

Now the renters want a permanent boat ramp on the complex's grounds, and county planning department officials want to limit the number of boats on the lake to four at a time from people living in the apartments. About 50 renters at any time would have stickers allowing them to use the lake.

Some homeowners on the lake aren't pleased.

"They're going in the right direction but that's totally unenforceable," said Steve Seibert, a Clearwater attorney representing the homeowners. "How are you going to enforce something like that on a Saturday afternoon?"

About 150 homes line the 255-acre lake; Lake Magdalene Arms has 799 apartments.

The dispute centers on what the homeowners call the renters' reckless disregard for the safety of swimmers and other boaters in the lake.

Two years ago a 23-year-old man was killed when his fishing boat was hit broadside by a speedboat as he pulled away from his family's dock on Lake Magdalene. The homeowners say they are afraid someone else will be killed if the motorboat traffic is not controlled.

The apartment complex owners, Redstone Properties Inc., contend that the renters have been launching motorboats from the lake for years and that they've never been harmful.

Complaints by the property owners earlier this year resulted in the county closing a makeshift boat ramp at the complex. That action prompted the owners of the complex to ask the county to allow it to build a permanent boat ramp.

When the complex was built about 20 years ago, the zoning agreement called for no motorboat traffic from the apartment complex. But many boaters ignored the provision or didn't know about it.

"I just heard about it three days ago," said Robert Anderson, 23, a renter who is trying to put together a boating education class at the complex.