Deck double talk

If ever there’s been a head-scratcher about how county commissioners make decisions, what to do about 180 square feet of Marion County Lake’s 13 million square feet ranks right up there with neighborhood revitalization.

Developer Garry Dunnegan wants to keep an old 18 by 10-foot dock moored in a cove where he’s also built a slightly larger dock connected to a new house for an El Dorado family. To accommodate a property owner who once had access to the old dock, Dunnegan built an attractive stairway leading down to the dock’s new location hugging the shoreline just north of the new one.

Drivers passing by have to look hard to see the old brown dock, as it sets well back from two larger, more brightly colored ones. It blends in, it’s unobtrusive, and likely to be used just a few times a year, Dunnegan said.

But having two docks linked to one property runs afoul of lake regulations, something Dunnegan didn’t check out before starting his project, and apparently ignored after being told about it.

So commissioners want it gone. Dunnegan didn’t follow the rules, and the dock is in violation of them. Commissioner Dan Holub is quoted elsewhere in this paper as saying the rules have to be enforced.

“If one gets outside the rules, you get outside the justification of enforcing the rules anywhere else,” he said.

So here’s the head-scratching conundrum: Holub and his two counterparts haven’t let rules stand in the way of giving handouts of county tax dollars.

On four occasions, documented in this newspaper, they’ve granted exceptions and tax breaks to folks who didn’t follow the rules of the county’s neighborhood revitalization program. Any excuse was an excuse for commissioners to turn their heads the other way to give gifts, not incentives, to noncompliant builders. Rules weren’t intended to be hard and fast, they said; there’s always room to consider individual cases.

Dunnegan’s approach gets no approval here. He neglected to consult the appropriate authorities, and completed the second dock after having been told he couldn’t have two. Commissioners can’t be blamed for reacting as if their authority has been flaunted — it has.

As it stands now, Dunnegan’s hope to keep both docks rests on the possibility that the state might say the cove, cut off from the lake proper by Lakeshore Dr., is private property and not covered by dock restrictions.

Legalities and improprieties aside, commissioners should take a step back, then seriously consider making an exception. They’ve already done so once, allowing an individual to build a much larger covered boat dock on the main lake.

Docks in the three north side coves aren’t like the ones on the rest of the lake. Boats can’t cross under Lakeshore Dr., so they’re virtually nonexistent in these waters. The docks are suited for fishing, sunbathing, and lounging. They’re less docks and more floating decks.

The dock in question does nothing to detract from the ambience of the lake, a rationale cited for restricting the number of docks. Nor does it prevent neighbors from free, unobstructed use of their own docks. Blue-green algae is far more likely to be an annoyance.

If cove neighbors don’t object — and they should be given a forum in which to do so — then it’s hard to see any rationale why this tiny, unobtrusive dock that blends in so well should be removed.

It could be a hard sell if commissioners really don’t want to reward misbehavior. But if they haven’t misplaced their “good guys” hats, the ones they put on when they rewarded other rulebreakers by invoking “individuals above rules,” perhaps there’s a chance that years from now you’ll see kids fishing from that old dock. See them, that is, if you look twice.

— david colburn

Last modified Aug. 4, 2016