Letter to the Editor


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To the editor:

The Bollinger-Cape Girardeau County Regional Lake Association has been actively involved in rewriting Senate Bill 776 to meet the concerns of landowners surrounding the proposed lake. The results of this effort are reflected in Senate Bill 363. Our input for these changes came from two public meetings we held in addition to the many comments we received individually. As a group, we feel we have addressed all of those concerns as originally written in SB 776. In fact, many of those changes were suggested by the group opposed to the lake.

The original Senate bill had three major areas of concern: 1. The lake authority's jurisdiction. 2. Limiting the scope of the lake authority. 3. The eminent domain issue.

Regarding the first issue, we proposed changing the lake's area of zoning jurisdiction from 5,000 feet to 2,000 feet. We also addressed the landowners' concerns regarding the zoning of the 2,000 feet by grandfathering the land in its current use, allowing it to remain as that and to continue as long as the subject land remained in the family and/or its heirs.

Regarding the second issue, the original bill gives the lake authority almost unlimited powers as to what it could do. In in effect gives the authority the opportunity to enter into business ventures that would compete with private enterprise. Because of the amount of land controlled by the authority in the original bill, the authority would have been able to control all of the shoreline and lease the property to anyone. This opportunity belongs to the original landowner. The new bill limits the lake authority to only water-related activities in an areas than encompasses 50 feet from the water's edge versus the original 300 feet. Under the new bill, the 50 feet the lake authority can acquire will be determined by a line which lies 50 feet beyond an erosion-control line established topographically at 3 feet above normal pool of 480 feet.

Regarding eminent domain: Under the new bill the lake authority would still have the power of eminent domain just as both counties currently have. Our changes involved giving the lake authority the expanded and needed flexibility to negotiate with the landowners by offering various options such as relocation incentives, like-kind purchases, life estates and salvage disposal. With these financial options made available to each landowners, we feel that the lake authority could negotiate for the purchase of land with the need for eminent domain to be exercised.

It should also be noted that the Senate bill stipulates that the land would be purchased at fair market value to be determined by independent appraisals at the time of purchase. To date, all changes in the Senate bill have been geared to landowners affected by the lake project. However, there are other questions that need to be answered to the satisfaction of the citizens of both counties that will affect the outcome of any election concerning this project. For example, can the lake be used as a regional source of water supply? What level of sales tax will be needed to fund the project? Can the lake be used for an electric generation plant? Until these and other questions are answered, it would be extremely difficult for any voter to make an informed decision about the lake.

Our efforts to this point have been to correct the original Senate bill. Before any issue would be presented to the voters, additional work needs to be done to review all of the original lake studies. The lake opponents have circulated misinformation regarding the value of this land. Until actual surveys and appraisals are completed, no one knows what the land is worth unless they have had a recent appraisal performed on their property.

Only after SB 363 is approved by the Senate and House and is signed into law can we move forward. Your support of the revised Senate bill will give citizens of both counties the opportunity to decide this issue in the voting booth.