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CARROLLWOOD // Dock juts into troubled waters

Life on Lake Carroll can be peaceful. Herons glide along the water's edge. Mallards waddle into and out of the tall grass.

These days, however, a dispute over a man and his dock is roiling those calm waters.

Homeowner Doug Chisholm built a 50-foot dock behind his house on the lake. The homeowners association in Original Carrollwood says that's 12 feet too long, and Chisholm didn't get its approval to build it.

Chisholm calls the board a "kangaroo court." Board members call him immature.

The sides appear to have reached a standoff.

The homeowners association has given Chisholm until Sunday to scale back his dock. If he doesn't, it plans to fine him $100 the first day and $25 every day after that. Chisholm says he plans to keep every inch of his dock.

The peacefulness of Lake Carroll, with its private beach and abundant bass, is what Chisholm remembers best about growing up there. It was that peacefulness that brought him back.

But lakefront property isn't cheap, especially for someone who owns a small lawn care company. Then in the spring of 1993, a house became available. It sat near the mouth of an inlet and needed fixing up. Chisholm grabbed it.

"I knew I could make this place into the home I've always wanted," said the 34-year-old. On his to-do list: build a dock.

Before constructing any structure on Lake Carroll, homeowners have to receive written consent from the Carrollwood Civic Association, which owns the lake bottom. It was deeded to the group in 1973 by the subdivision's developers, SunState Builders.

Governed by a board of 12 volunteers, the association has the final say in how tall, short, wide or long a dock can be.

"Having such guidelines is important," said Rick O'Keefe, chairman of the board's standards committee. As an example of the pitfalls, he cited the Forest Hills neighborhood. Decades ago, he said, Forest Hills was beautiful. But there were no restrictions on what residents could do. Some put up satellite dishes. Others parked their recreational vehicles in the street.

"Let's just say now Forest Hills isn't exactly Carrollwood or Tampa Palms," O'Keefe said.

Dock proposals are heard at the board's monthly meetings. In September 1995, Doug Chisholm spoke. He said he wanted to build a 50-foot dock. The board said that was too long.

He said he needed the length to park his 19-foot ski boat, especially when water levels are low. The board said such a long dock, which is at the mouth of an inlet, would be hard to navigate.

Chisholm said other docks on the inlet are long, some 70 feet. The association said previous boards let those docks applications slide, but this board was not going to do that.

Chisholm said his immediate neighbors did not mind the size of his dock. The board said he needed to get the permission from everyone on the inlet. That was 15 homes, he said.

"It is ridiculous," Chisholm said. "Fifteen people and a board of 12 have authority over my dock, and I have none."

He sought an outside opinion, from the county's Environmental Protection Commission. It concluded that the dock posed "minimal navigational hazard."

"Insignificant," O'Keefe said of the EPC report. "We are the ones who can make judgments on that lake. We have the authority."

Chisholm built his dock in November. Stretching from the left corner of his property, the boardwalk reaches 50 feet into the water. Cost: $2,800.

"He totally disregarded our decision," said Dale Sisco, a lawyer and chairman of the board. Sisco also grew up in Original Carrollwood and returned to raise his family.

"The association owns the bottom of the lake," he said. "Doug did not get approval to build, so he is in effect trespassing."

The board sent certified letters informing Chisholm he was in violation. It notified other residents along the inlet of Chisholm's dock, and nine complained. Updates on the dock situation were published in the community newsletter. Meetings became confrontational. Lots of time was taken up discussing what to do with Doug Chisholm's dock.

Inlet residents took sides.

"I'm not interested in creating an issue with my neighbor, but if Doug is allowed to do whatever he wants to do, if he is allowed to go outside the rules, then what's to stop others?" asked homeowner Roger Anderson.

But neighbor Sylvia Davis said she thinks "the association got upset because Doug didn't get their approval first. I really think the dock looks fine. They should really let it go."

The board gave Chisholm until Sunday to submit designs for a dock that's 12 feet shorter. If he doesn't, it will start fining him. If he doesn't pay, it will seek legal action to remove the dock.

Chisholm says he's not chopping his dock. "Not 12 feet," he said. "Not even an inch."

_ If you have a story about Carrollwood, call Babita Persaud at 226-3463 or Tim Grant at 226-3471.