Before the end of this year, the Chautauqua County Legislature is due to receive a recommendation from its Chautauqua Lake Protection and Rehabilitation Agency.
The recommendation will be whether to create a Chautauqua Lake Management District.
If creation of a district is recommended, additional organizational and funding recommendations will also be offered.
For many years, the Chautauqua Lake Association Board of Directors has endorsed the concept of forming a Lake District. The board reaffirmed that conceptual support this past summer.
Recognizing that the agency’s recommendations have yet to unfold, the board reserved comment on the on-going agency work until such time as the recommendations are disclosed and can be fairly evaluated.
During discussion of the topic, the lake association board noted that a successful Lake District requires on-going community involvement.
Successful Lake District boards elsewhere include representatives from political jurisdictions, the scientific community, lake stakeholder organizations and the public, with no single group sector possessing a majority of the board’s membership.
The CLA board also recognized that securing adequate funding for lake and related watershed care will be a key component for meeting the lake’s needs, which are significant, and thus the community should not rely solely upon Lake District taxes or fees. The greater community benefits and prospers from Chautauqua Lake and therefore should participate in lake funding.
Although lake-area residents’ and users’ fees can be a component, governments that prosper from the lake should also be required to fund lake work. Those governments include lakeside towns and villages, Chautauqua County, via its general and occupancy tax revenues, and New York state. Additionally, charitable income should be a component of the funding formula.
Recognizing issues that have arisen with the disbursement of occupancy tax funding since its inception, the lake association board also noted that very specific expenditure use policies will need to be developed for any district that might be formed. Funds generated by the district should be sequestered by the county into a very specific lake fund. County non-district personnel should not be compensated from the lake fund.
The agency’s recommendations should simply be the first step of the lake district discussion. As the agency heard from a distant lake, the whole community needs to be involved before and after a district is created. Public support was vital to that lake’s funding and program.
Step Two here will need to be the solicitation of community input regarding the writing of district-creating legislation, followed by Step Three, public hearings on proposed legislation.
Success starts at the formative stage. Failure happens when community participation is absent.
Paul O. Stage is president of the Chautauqua Lake Association.