Gateway Sun

Over the past two years this publication has heard from many people who are angry that Gateway residents are on the hook for repairing lakes that were built by real estate developer Westinghouse, who went bankrupt and re-emerged as WCI … and who were recently bought by another developer named Lennar.

Whenever the subject was brought up, people felt that since the developer was technically still in business as WCI that WCI should pay for the mistakes that were made when building the ponds. Unfortunately, WCI shed all financial responsibility during their bankruptcy proceedings.

Since someone has to pay for the repairs, it fell to the taxpayers. So the appropriate paperwork was filed in order to transfer ownership of the lakes to the Gateway Services Community Development District (ie: you).

And now the GSCDD is a few months away from spending up to $6 million of your money that they’ve borrowed from the State of Florida in order to repair the 13 lakes that are in the worst shape in Gateway.

But the Gateway Sun has discovered that at least two of those lakes – both in the Stoneybrook community – still belong to a developer named U.S. Home Corporation. They do not belong to the district (ie: you).

From GSCDD documents:

There are 13 lakes which were identified within the Facilities Plan for lake bank restoration. These lakes were previously prioritized in terms of severity and are as follows (in order of severity): LK118, LK87, LK116, LK126, LK90, LK124, LK110, LK92, LK119, LK60, LK61, LK86 and LK121

Note that lakes number 60 and 61 are on that list.

A spreadsheet that is publicly available on the district’s website with the file name ‘Gateway Lake and Wetland Permit Summary.xlsx‘ shows lakes identified as lake numbers 56 through 63 are in the Stoneybrook community. Eight lakes total.

That matches Lee County records which also show 8 parcels of land that contain bodies of water.

One problem, though.

County property records show that Stoneybrook’s lakes have been owned by U.S. Home Corporation since September 2006. Here are the strap numbers and location within Stoneybrook so you can check for yourself:

31-44-26-25-000L6.00CE – North of Blue Stone Circle
31-44-26-25-000L1.00CE – Along SR-82, borders Weatherstone Place, Stone Tower Loop
31-44-26-25-000L5.00CE – borders Blue Stone Circle, Muddy Creek Lane
06-45-26-25-000L4.00CE – borders Jewel Stone Lane, Pebble Stone Court
06-45-26-25-000L3.00CE – borders Green Stone Court, Pebble Stone Court (larger pond)
06-45-26-25-000L8.00CE – borders Green Stone Court, Pebble Stone Court (smaller pond)
06-45-26-25-000L2.00CE – borders Stone Valley Loop

Most of the above listed lakes also border Pebblebrook Boulevard, the main road that travels through Stoneybrook. But none of those lakes were ever transferred to the GSCDD.

There is also a parcel identified as strap 31-44-26-25-000B1.00CE which contains a small river that connects the Jewel Stone Lane/Pebble Stone Court lake and the Green Stone Court/Pebble Stone Court (smaller) lake. That parcel is owned by the Stoneybrook Master HOA.

While we don’t know which of the 8 parcel strap ID numbers are the “lake 60” or “lake 61” as the GSCDD identifies them, there are no other bodies of water in Stoneybrook.

This means your tax dollars will be used to two lakes that are owned by a developer, and not by the taxpayers. (Although it’s possible they’re talking about repairing the body of water owned by the HOA, if you look at an overhead map this body doesn’t really contact any homes and seems unlikely they’d focus on it.)

Perhaps the GSCDD will be able to reach out to the developer (who may have also been purchased by Lennar, but do not appear to have gone bankrupt since 2006) and have them assist with the repair costs. Or perhaps the lakes are beyond their warranty or whatever guarantees come with ponds and nothing can be done.

Or perhaps they already have agreements in place to transfer lake ownership that just have not been completed yet.

But as the GSCDD proceeds to spend up to $6 million on the first wave of lake repairs, and almost certainly another $5 million to $20 million on the other problem lakes in the future, it would be nice to know that they’re going to be spending money to repair pieces of property that they (ie: you) actually own.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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