18-Year Dam Debate May Be Settled

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Residents around the Brentwood Today Lake and Dam in the Brentwood neighborhood are considering a city proposal to either rebuild the dam or convert the former lake into wetlands.

The private dam has needed repair since 1994 and has been before the Raleigh City Council since the time of Mayor Tom Fetzer. In March, the dam breached completely and emptied the lake.

In the deal struck by the council’s Public Works Committee last week, the city will take control of the dam and spend the $2.5 million needed for repairs. The 34 property owners around the private lake will begin maintaining the lake and be responsible for the $10,000 to $15,000 needed every decade or so to clean silt from the lakebed.

The catch is that the 34 lakeside property owners will first have to form an association and stabilize the lake before the city will spend money for dam repairs.

As a second option, the city offered to spend the $750,000 to $1 million to restore the stream to wetlands.

Brentwood Today is the second in a string of three small lakes. The city has already taken over one of the others, Beaman Lake, downstream. City officials are debating what to do with Northshore Lake, just upstream from Brentwood Today.

Scott Bryant, with the city’s stormwater division, said the city has the money set aside for the dam repair. He told the Record after the meeting that upkeep will amount to about $3.50 per month for each of the properties around the lake.

The owner of the lake, Raleigh-based Smada Construction Company, wants to donate the lake to the city, the neighbors or a local nonprofit such as the Triangle Land Conservancy. If the neighbors around the lake can agree to take on the lake, the company has committed to donating it to the new association.

Neighbors around the lake will meet July 26 to discuss the two options and bring their preference back to the full council in August.

Political Maneuvering in Public Works
About a dozen residents from the Brentwood neighborhood showed up for the Public Works Committee meeting last week.

Ann Franzel, whose property backs up to the dam, told the committee the city has been promising to fix the dam since 1994. She said the neighbors surrounding the lake have kept it clean and even helped keep the dam repaired during the past 18 years.

“We are responsible caretakers of a wonderful treasure,” Franzel told committee members.

John Odom, who represents the district that includes the lake and sits on the Public Works Committee, argued that the city should take control of the lake and the dam.

“We promised these people we’d clean this out,” Odom said.

Thomas Crowder, who also sits on the committee, didn’t like the idea of the city taking on the liability of the lake and dam.

“If the neighborhood wants the lake as an amenity, are they willing to take on the liability?” Crowder asked.

“The city is not going to buy an amenity for your pleasure,” Crowder told the assembled neighbors.

In an interesting political maneuver, Crowder proposed that the city could take control of the lake, but only if the property was converted into a park. The city owns one of the lots abutting the lake, and this idea received a warm reception from the neighbors in the room.

But, Crowder said, a park around a lake would need a trail, and he would only agree to the city taking on the liability for the lake if the neighbors would deed a construction easement around the lake to the city. The problem is the easement essentially goes up to the surrounding neighbors’ back porches.

After initial excitement, the neighbors greeted this caveat with disapproving shouts of “that’s our backyards.”

The motion for the city to repair the dam and make neighbors responsible for the lake passed through Public Works Committee with a 2-1 vote, with Odom voting against.

@duncanpardo

Ariella Monti contributed to the reporting of this story.

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