The Shoreline Management Plan

You are about to read some negative comments. Please don't let them deter you from exploring Smith Mountain Lake as your next home. The fact is: The lake is a fantastic place to live and it will be for generations to come. The vast majority of properties here are wonderful, and priced quite nicely, too.

However, the fact remains our lake was subjected to a corporate imposed “Shoreline Management Plan”. The effect has been an overall reduction in property values by 15-20%. While this may be great for buyers, it has angered the locals. No wonder, since everyone got hurt financially - and a small group of unlucky owners had their investments ruined. The future will likely see the plan repealed or dramatically altered... it's already in the courts.

I repeat: "fantastic place to live" and properties are "priced quite nicely!"
NEW VIDEO: Overview of problems with the Shoreline Managment Plan

Now begins brief explanations of a few of the plan's problems. Keep in mind none of this addresses the fact that AEP and FERC had no right to dictate what we do with our property in the first place. That oversight belongs to state and especially local authorities, who were doing an excellent job of using common sense and comprehensive zoning when the “plan” was unleashed on us.

tree pyramid scheme photo 11. Tree Pyramid Scheme

The Plan is slowly destroying many magnificent lake views. I won’t labor over the loss of value that loss of view creates, since that is obvious, but here’s how it happens:

All trees wider than 1/2” removed below the 800’ contour must be replaced at a 50% ratio. For example, if a 20” diameter tree is cut or dies, then you must replace half that width, so you replant 10”. Here are 3 drawings that show what eventually happens.

tree pyramid scheme photo 2To begin, planting a single 10” diameter tree is impossible. Such a tree would weigh tons, cost a fortune, need a wide-load permit and tractor-trailer to haul it, and
then require a crane to set it in place. Even a 4” diameter tree has a root ball the size of a small car and needs a bulldozer to move it!

So now what?

You call a nursery, whose largest trees are 2” wide, and replant 5 trees for the 1, spreading them out in the thin ribbon of land above the riprap (797’) but below the easement (800’). (They must go in this narrow zone and you may not group them.) So what will happen to your views over the years?

tree pyramid scheme photo 3And note: 5 trees for 1 is nothing. Imagine the reaction when people are forced to replant dozens, even hundreds of trees, when they develop a wooded lot. These owners have a lousy view from day one and it just gets worse as the years go by and the trees turn into a shoreline forest.

In fact, the plan now says owners are not entitled to a clear view of the water. But that’s why many people bought lake property in the first place. Enough already. We are entitled to a clear view of our own waterfront from our own property! (STUNNING EXAMPLE PHOTOS!)

2. Worthless Properties

Here is a drawing of an actual cove in High Point Subdivision. Like most small coves here, it narrows, especially towards the back. A multitude of undeveloped lots in these areas have had staggering losses in their value because you can’t build docks on them now. Here’s why:

For new dock construction, you begin with a very expensive survey (which now requires water depths and inclusion of neighboring properties) to see if you can meet the Plan’s requirements: At most, you can build up to 1/3 across the cove. After construction, your dock must be at least 15’ from any other structures and a minimum 30’ wide waterway must remain to pass thru the cove.

dock exampleWhy? Nobody knows.

Cars and boats are about the same size, yet cars travel 55 mph in a 12’ lane while boats suddenly need a 30’ swath to travel 1 mph in the back of a cove. Covered slips and garages are the same size. Garages are attached to houses, but for some reason everyone’s dock needs to be at least 15’ from anything.  These asinine setbacks and waterway width requirements have eliminated hundreds of properties from ever building a covered slip, or any dock at all. (And hundreds more properties can never upgrade their docks.)

And by the way, you also have to avoid the imaginary lot lines by 15', as if they extended into the water. Many pie shaped lots, not just the norm in coves, but a universal rule, are shut out from the onset.

Let’s say you're lucky and your cove was large and deep enough to comply with all the restrictions, so you built a dock. The catch is, at least in the small coves, though your dock is in compliance, it's very possible that building it has now locked some of your neighbors out of ever building a dock. Talk about a nightmare.

Are you exhausted yet? Well, it’s not over. After construction, you may be required to pay for a second expensive survey and submit it to AEP. Heaven help you if your builder was off a little bit.

And believe or not, we’re still not done with AEP’s dock requirements…

In the middle of all of this rigmarole, there’s another absurd requirement that wreaks havoc with every potential dock site: The water under new docks must be at least 4’ deep at the point closest to the shore. You read it right – the point closest to the shore! It doesn’t matter if most of the other water is deeper. It doesn’t matter if no part of your boat would be in that corner. It doesn’t matter that most of our boats only draft 2’ of water. And remember, you may not dredge a single inch deeper than original water depth.

So the results of this one single rule are that A.) Some shallow coves are completely banned from ever building docks, and B.) No dock can ever again be built near the shore. All by itself, this 4’ depth rule has eliminated having enough space to build a dock for another multitude of countless owners. Between this rule and the others about docks, hundreds of investments here became virtually worthless overnight.  

dock exampleAnd what happens when a lot goes up for sale and suddenly someone discovers the Plan is going to cause a serious problem with future develpment? The answer, all too often, is a dead deal. There are thousands upon thousands of deals now that never happened because of the plan. Perhaps even a thousand ratified contracts have fallen thru. That's like dying at the finish line. It doesn't take much for buyer prospects to get overwhelmed by all the rules, regulations and uncertainties. Sometimes they'll back ouit of a deal when the property they like best has no real problems at all, a perfect example of the fact that scared or confused people do not invest life savings. And all of these people tell their stories to friends and acquaintances, so imagine how negative Smith Mountain Lake is starting to sound in some circles.

Look again at that drawing. In that one cove alone, all five undeveloped lots can never build a covered slip. Lots 65 and 67 can never build any dock. And while lot 64 and lot 68 may have room for a tiny floating dock, as soon as one builds the other is immediately shut out!

3. Swimmer Safety

Who in their right mind thinks anchoring bundles of branches underwater on your shoreline, where swimming children could get snagged, is a good idea? They could poke out an eye, too. Yet, in some cases of shoreline brush clearing, this is exactly what the Plan requires.

shoreline clippingsIf you don’t like it, AEP says you can install man-made fish habitat instead. However, a child could get snagged or injured with that product, as well. You could try to warn swimmers where it is, but there’s just too many variables, like neighbors, visitors or boaters swimming. And none of this takes into consideration that stick bundles and artificial trees may drift or break loose as time deteriorates them.

This policy is a violation of basic common sense. You wouldn’t anchor hazards in your swimming pool, would you? So how does installing this junk in lake swimming areas make sense, unless the added danger of invisibility and not knowing they are there is an improvement. This rule is blue ribbon stupid.

In closing, how would you like to make mortgage payments on your lot for years, only to find out when you retired or tried to resell that: You can't remove trees for a view... You can't build a dock... You can't make a beach area... You can't even have a barbarque... But you are required to install drowning and injury hazards. The Shoreline Management Plan is literally bureaucratic madness! (And there’s many other problems.) Residents need to know about the nightmare the plan has caused many vacant lot owners. And they also need to understand these things impact their own home's value.

I’ll summarize as follows: To create the Lake, AEP purchased the right to store water on our properties. This is all they bought. Forty years went by and then they took our property rights and started telling us what we can or cannot do with our shorelines. It’s over 10 years since they implemented this fiasco and the results are crystal clear: Life changing financial losses for some unlucky property owners and sorely diminished real estate values for everyone else. Enough is enough. Repeal the Shoreline Management Plan. Return zoning authority to the surrounding Counties.

Lastly, I'll repeat it once more... The sky is not falling, because the lake is still a fantastic place to live. The vast majority of properties here are wonderful and priced quite nicely, too. Still, the fact remains that everyone's property value was illegally and substantially reduced, while hundreds of owners, financially speaking, were outright mugged.

Please check back from time to time for additions to this section. It's been updated numerous times and we keep adding from time to time.

VIDEO: Overview of the Shoreline Managment Plan (runs 14 minutes)

Disclaimer: The opinions, comments and information herein are not legal advice. We are not responsible for errors, omissions or misunderstandings.