Forest Lake Homeowners Association Florence, SC

History of Waterford


History of Development

Several Waterford residents who attended the 2005 FLHA Annual Meeting questioned “what benefit do we get as a member of the Forest Lake Home-owners Association” Some actually felt that the FLHA Board was ignoring the Waterford side and thought they might need to start their own association.

Some historical background is given here which hopefully shows a way to improve some of the negative feelings that seem to have arisen recently. I believe that once the history is understood people will see that certain issues and attitudes originated long ago when the lake was created. Many of our FLHA Boards have failed to recognize this and simply ignored the situation. This is an attempt to understand why.

The community we now know as “Waterford” began in 1964 when the lake was created. This is the area on the east side of Knollwood Road The land was divided by a stream called “Middle Swamp Branch”. The stream was actually the dividing line for ownership of the land. Four or five people owned land on the north side of the stream and one person (John Ratliff) owned the land on the south side of the stream. The Ratliff portion equaled about one-half of the new lake. Neither he, nor any of the land-owners (on the north side) wanted to become part of a new subdivision that was being proposed for the other side of Knollwood Road (by Ed Young and Foster Jeffords). It seems that the only thing they were willing to accept was the flooding of their lands, and that the new lake would be called “Forest Lake”.

When a dam was built and the flooding of the land occurred it, of course, created some “buried” land, land that was no longer accessible (because it was now underwater). The accessible land became lakefront property and development started. The lots were formed under the direction of a different development company named “Waterford on Forest Lake, Inc.” This was a name chosen the principal landowners on the north side of the stream –Gassaway’s and Ward’s. The President of the development company was Sandra Gassaway, and the Secretary was Folliine Guilford. A sign was put up on the property and it then began to be called “Waterford on Forest Lake”.

Ownership transferred to the new lot buyers but the seller(s) maintained ownership of the lakebed portion, i.e., the lakebed did not transfer with the lot(s).This is different than the other side of the lake, where ownership of the lakebed was eventually turned over to a homeowner association. It is not clear if a homeowner association was formed for the Waterford development.

Owning the lakebed has proven to have several important advantages for the homeowner’s association on the other side of the lake (FLHA). The primary one is that it gives you complete control of anything over it, i.e., above the water. This applies mostly to docks, piers or structures over the water. Rules, for example, have been established on the west side restricting docks to certain lengths –but , this does not apply to the Waterford side. They did not follow the same covenants and restrictions as were adopted for the west side. This is the root cause of many (FLHA) management problems, i.e., that the different “communities” within Forest Lake follow separate covenants and restrictions. It becomes hard, for example, to tell someone they can’t built a dock or shed when they can look across the lake on the other (Waterford) side and see one! This exemplifies our management problems. When everyone does not fall under the same rules it tends to cause disharmony and a separatist attitude.

Several historical problems should be mentioned here. One being that John Ratliff, owner of all the land on the south side of the stream did not sell or develop any of his land. As many of us know, it remained a woods-like environment until it was sold in 2003. Many problems were created by Mr. Ratliff’s interpretation of how the lake was to be used. For example, he allowed outsiders to use his portion of the lake (to fish) He actually put up signs saying the general public could fish on the lake for a fee. He even rented boats to them!

Needless to say, the general public began to think they could use all of the lake and they began migrating to the other side (west) of the lake. The Homeowner’s association actually prosecuted several individuals who fished on it’s west side. This is a direct violation of the FLHA covenants and restrictions. It was finally declared in the Courts that Forest Lake was a private lake and an agreement was reached with Mr. Ratliff that public fishing was not to be permitted. As part of that agreement he insisted that FLHA members not fish within 100 feet of his property.

Mr. Ratliff, as well as landowners on the other (north) side of the stream pay the property taxes on the lakebed year-after-year until recently, when he sold the land (and lakebed) to Phillip Lowe, a Forest Lake resident who created “Forest Lake Shores”. Mr. Lowe now pays property tax on approximately one-half of the lakebed (formerly Ratliff’s) which includes a big part of the dam as well. He also honors the agreement with Mr. Ratliff to provide access to the dam by the Association for maintenance purposes.

Purchasers of the Waterford lots pay property taxes on the land abutting the lake and many of them have joined the Forest Lake Homeowner’s Association (which was formed later). The original owners, however, have never joined the homeowner association. Most do not live in Forest Lake. This is very contrary to what occurred on the other side, i.e., the lake area on the west side of Knollwood Road. Here ownership of the lakebed was transferred by the original landholders to a homeowner association. The Waterford developers apparently never created its’ own homeowner association.

What exists in Waterford now is twenty-nine (29) homes in a community named “Waterford on Forest Lake”. Thirteen (13) of these homes are on the water. Six other homes touch the water but are considered part of Mallard Pointe (5 pay dues). A total of seventeen (17) of the Waterford homeowners are members of the Forest Lake Homeowner’s Association. Two lot owners have joined as well. The dam is physically located on this side and a thirty year agreement for access to it exists. A portion of the dam however, sits on other people’s property (Mallard Pointe) and the association does not have any agreement with them. An easement is maintained for access to the lake by Tony Hall –developer of Mallard Pointe, for the Mallard Pointe residents.

As the history shows, Waterford became a community on it’s own. It never was a part of the overall Forest Lake development. The original landowners simply did not want to be a part of the “other” Forest Lake. To this day, they (or their heirs) just routinely pay the tax bills without ever questioning it –thereby perpetuating the management problem in my opinion. In contrast, the “other” Forest Lake pays the taxes on the lakebed through their homeowner’s association –the original owners are completely out of the picture.

How to straighten this out should become a “project” for a future FLHA Board of Directors. I think it just hasn’t gotten much of our attention. We generally wind up just saying “let them do their own thing –we do not have any jurisdiction on that side”. That’s the easy way out. However, what do we do when the homeowners in Waterford want to join the homeowner’s association? –take their money and tell them we have no jurisdiction on their side of the lake? This seems to be the feeling that came up at the 2005 Annual Meeting.

I think the value of ending the management confusion would be well worth it.

For the record, the property taxes on the west side of Knollwood are approximately $700 per year (for about 150 acres). It is likely to be in the neighborhood of $200 per year on the Waterford side –and this would be split among 3 or 4 owners. (needs to be verified).

By conscious choice, Waterford never followed the 1964 Forest Lake covenants and restrictions. It was never covered in the “Grant of Authority” given by Ed Young and Foster Jeffords to the homeowner association. Each side of the lake developed separately and had it’s own rules. Every new Association Board member soon realizes this and, rightly or wrongly, believes it has no jurisdiction on the Waterford side of the lake. This is the root of the problem. Having a large lake divided in two with limited management of one side just doesn’t work.

The situation is further complicated by ownership by multiple parties of the Waterford lakebed. What this means, is that any discussions or negotiations will need to be done with three or four separate entities. Obviously, this adds another dimension to the problem. It means, for example, that everyone would need to transfer their ownership of the lakebed to allow the association to manage it in the same way as the “other” side. As I see it, it should be either all-or-nothing. The Association needs to have authority over all the lakebed to manage effectively. There should be no sections where the rules don’t apply.

Despite the differing rules for managing each side of the lake, the Forest Lake Homeowners Association has “gotten involved” in the Waterford community. This is likely to have occurred due to several Waterford residents joining the FLHA and becoming Board members. I believe that the fact that several residents did join, indicates a willingness to become a part of the greater Forest Lake community. This is probably a good point to start with, i.e., working on unifying the community. The Association we did things in Waterford because residents wanted to become part of the community. We just need to follow through and make it official.

Some of the things that have been done are: a boat ramp was constructed by the association , log jams blocking the spillway are removed, the lake is lowered when needed, sterile carp were added for vegetation control, weeds are sprayed, trees are planted and maintained on the causeway, etc. –things that we all benefit from (east and west).

A final thought has to do with our “sanctuary” status. All of Forest Lake was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1980. This is a South Carolina Public Law (Act No. 328). It helps protect the wildlife population in the entire community (both sides of the lake) and prevents firearms from being used. This was accomplished through the efforts of Verdie Jeffords, wife of Foster Jeffords, a founding father. I believe it is another one of those “benefits” that we all

I think the real bottom line is that benefit does come everyone’s way because of the beauty we all share in our surroundings. There is no less benefit for those on the Waterford side –they are not excluded from the Sanctuary. The homeowner’s association does keep the lake up for everyone! In this respect it is not two separate lakes, but rather, one lake. The Waterford side is very much a part of Forest Lake and should not feel neglected. It is the lack of management authority that confuses things.

Unfortunately, each FLHA Board seems to have dealt with Waterford differently. The many FLHA rules and regulations adopted over the years have never applied to the Waterford side. This creates a real dilemma trying to manage things.

How to correct the situation is the “food-for-thought” provided here. It will take some creative thinking and a lot of work to straighten things out. I believe the end result will be a much more manageable homeowner’s association –one that has a clear plan for the future of Forest Lake.

Frank M. McIntyre,
FLHA Historian , February 2005 (revised July, 2005)