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Plan stirs concerns over lakes silt problem
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John Cornelson, president of the Chattahoochee Estates West Property Owners Association, points out areas of Knickerbocker Lake in his backyard that have been filled with silt over the past several years. Residents are concerned about increased siltation and fear development will further harm the lake. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Zoning request

What: Gainesville City Council is set to consider changing a planned unit development zoning on 5.4 acres on Greystone Road.
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway

A zoning request that goes before Gainesville City Council on Tuesday is tearing at old wounds over concerns about increased siltation in Lake Knickerbocker, a dammed-up part of Ada Creek.

The lake “has struggled significantly over the past 30 years and dramatically over the past 15, from radical silting created by stormwater runoff rushing regularly into its several tributaries,” resident David Gleason said in a Dec. 9 letter to the city’s Planning and Appeals Board.

At stake now is a request from Treadwell and Deborah Syfan to amend the existing planned unit development on 5.4 acres on Greystone Road, west of Tommy Aaron Drive, permitting four single-family residential lots.

If approved, each of the lots would range from 1.1 to 1.7 acres.

The property was originally zoned for three homes sharing a common driveway.

One of the lots will be used to renovate an existing home while three others will be developed on lots that are anticipated to sell at between $100,000 and $130,000.

The planning board recommended denial of the Syfans’ request, which goes before the City Council at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The meeting will take place in the Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway.

In a letter to City Council, Gleason, president of the Lake Lanier-Knickerbocker Protective Association, is asking that the group “give the lake a chance” and either deny the application or delay approval “until a qualified authority can determine that additional development ... will not further degrade (silting) conditions.”

Tread Syfan, who is an association member, said he is familiar with the lake’s problems, “but I’m not sure what they have to do with my zoning.”

“I think the first thing that everybody needs to keep in mind,” Tread Syfan said, “is I’m asking for one more lot than I now am permitted. In my opinion, it will have no effect whatsoever on the lake or the silt.”

If houses are built on the lots, “they’ll have to abide by the erosion control regulations,” Tread Syfan said. “Once they’re built, I don’t see how they’ll affect the lake whatsoever.”

Gleason said the association’s goal is not to stop development but to work to ensure there is “no further damage to an already sensitive environment.”

“Our concern ... is that once we begin down the slippery slope of subdividing properties, we run the risk of further

damage to our lake, the fish, wildlife and migrating birds,” he said.

Tread Syfan and Gleason agree on one thing: Knickerbocker has silt problems. And they blame much of the lake’s current state on past work tearing at the earth, including the construction of a box culvert on nearby Ledan Road.

“I’m sensitive about the lake,” Tread Syfan said. “I wish the lake would be dredged and all that silt be taken out of it, but that silt’s not from my property and I don’t think it will be in the future.”

Lake Knickerbocker was built in the late 1950s, after Lake Lanier, by the damming of Ada Creek, city officials have said.

The 45-acre lake is on the Chattahoochee Golf Club, near the 14th green, off East Lake Road.

The golf course does have a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to use the lake for irrigation.

The earthen dam was built by the city of Gainesville. Kelly Randall, Gainesville public utilities director, has said the city and the corps have gone back and forth on who should maintain it. In the early 2000s, the city agreed to maintain it.

The corps controls the lake, though.

“The big problem is this (lake) is a hot potato,” said John Cornelson, president of the Chattahoochee Estates West Property Owners Association.

Governments point the finger at each other instead of accepting responsibility, he and Gleason said.

“Nothing has been done to remediate it,” Cornelson said. “We came up with a plan about six years ago. It was going to be about $1 million to dredge it out, and that all went by the wayside.”

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