Vermont is home to many gorgeous lakes, streams, and rivers. And, for this reason, many out of staters purchase lake homes where they can enjoy their summers. And, in most cases, lake access is something that is free to lake homeowners and either not available or only available at an extra charge to those who live in other areas.
Whose Job is it to Clean the Lakes?
After spending several years in our local town government, the rights and responsibilities of those who own lakefront footage have often been a very controversial topic. Homeowners who own homes on the lake generally pay more in taxes for that property. It's valued more because it comes with lake access.
Residents of the town who do not own property on the lake are often denied access or charged to access the lakes or boat launches.
In some towns, like Castleton, people who live on the lake pay fees to a Lake Association that handles some of the clean-up and maintenance on the lake. These fees help pay for the clean-up and also pay for events available to lake property owners.
However, not all towns have lake associations which can leave lake property owners frustrated.
Who owns the lakes?
In Vermont, most of the lakes are owned by the State of Vermont rather than by the homeowners or the town itself. This means that legally unless it states otherwise somewhere, upkeep and maintenance of the lake is the responsibility of the State, not the town.
Problems in the news today
Swanton residents have requested the Selectboard deal with the "muck" on the lake that is stopping them from enjoying their lakefront summer homes. Unfortunately, since the lake is actually owned by the State of Vermont and not the Town of Swanton, there really isn't anything they can do.
If they were to undertake maintenance on the lake, this could not only create legal issues. But, the charges for this lake upkeep would be felt in higher taxes for all of the residents and not just those that have lakefront properties. This is a concern for some residents who don't live on the lake.
While towns like St. Albans have a lake association that manages the upkeep for the lake, Swanton does not.
To circumvent this issue, some residents have asked the Selectboard of the Town of Swanton to apply for a Department of Environmental Conservation grant that would allocate funds they could put toward water cleanup at no cost to the town.
Homeowners feel that the existence of the muck and weeds on the lake negatively impacts their property and that their property should be valued at a lower assessment because of this.
As of yet, the Selectboard has not responded to their concerns and their latest request. However, their most recent request for lower property rates was denied by the Board of Listers.
What are your thoughts on water upkeep in Vermont?
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