‘Keep The Lake A Lake’

CLP Sets Meeting To Discuss ‘Wetlands’ Issue

Looking out from the public boat launch at Lakewood Community Park to Burtis Bay on Chautauqua Lake. P-J photo by Michael Zabrodsky

Two area real estate agents have expressed concerns about the possible expansion of wetlands protections in the south basin of Chautauqua Lake.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation said recently it is likely parts of the south basin of Chautauqua Lake will become a protected wetlands area under new regulations being considered by the DEC. While no one knows exactly how the new regulations will affect the lake, many have concerns.

“I would say it’s impacted our real estate,” Julia McMahon, of Associate Brokers and Partners in Real Estate Advantage said. “I hope it’s not going to be severe, but it could be.”

Recently, Richard McMahon of Associate Brokers and Partners in Real Estate Advantage said that a client of his was going to make a property purchase in Burtis Bay area, but backed out of the deal when the DEC made its announcement. Richard McMahon also is a director on the Chautauqua Lake Partnership board.

In 2022, according to the DEC, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law historic revisions to New York’s Freshwater Wetlands Act. New York’s original Freshwater Wetlands Act was enacted in 1975 to regulate activities near larger wetlands, greater than 12.4 acres, and smaller wetlands considered to be of unusual local importance. The new wetlands law eliminates the use of the old, inaccurate wetland maps and clarifies that all wetland areas greater than 12.4 acres are subject to Article 24 regulations. Freshwater wetlands are lands and submerged lands – commonly called marshes, swamps, sloughs, bogs, and flats – that support aquatic or semi-aquatic vegetation.

Looking out from near the Chautauqua Shoreline Apartments, 75 Marine Drive, Celoron, to Burtis Bay on Chautauqua Lake. The DEC is proposing new regulations that could result in the lower basin (Burtis Bay area) of Chautauqua Lake to be designated as a wetlands area. P-J photo by Michael Zabrodsky

Julia McMahon said the proposed designation will hurt Chautauqua County tourism. Julia McMahon said that tourism is not just isolated to the lake.

“It will hurt Chautauqua County. Period,” Julia McMahon said.

Not only do tourists gravitate to the lake, she said, but they venture out to other cities, villages and towns.

“It is likely that much of the South Basin will be considered regulated wetlands, particularly the shallow areas containing submerged vegetation ringing the shoreline. The process of delineating New York State regulated wetlands is guided by New York’s delineation manual and focuses primarily on an evaluation of the dominant plants growing in a particular area,” TJ Pignataro, DEC Assistant Public Information officer, recently said.

Richard McMahon said the CLP will become the lead agency on the wetlands issue, and will continue to discuss herbicide use in the lake.

“If everything gets designated wetlands, herbicide use is just a moot point,” Richard McMahon said.

The CLP has scheduled an informational meeting, Richard McMahon said, at 10 a.m. at the Lawson Center, 73 Lakeside Drive, Bemus Point on March 16. Some topics are herbicide treatments, and environmental and safety acts as well as the potential wetlands designation. The meeting also will be live-streamed for people who can’t attend in person. To obtain the address for the live stream, visit chqlake.org/2024/02/clp-meeting/

“Everybody is welcome,” Richard McMahon said. “It’s an open discourse meeting. We’re inviting all the county officials too.”

Richard McMahon said that the potential wetlands situation is the equivalent to a factory moving out of the area.

“If you, all of a sudden, had a factory that just decided to move out, you lose that tax base, you lose that payroll base, you lose everything. This is the same thing. You’re just coming in. You’re designating an area, wetlands. You’re going to lose all net real estate value, and it’s going to trickle down very, very quickly,” Richard McMahon said.

In January, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos urged state residents to review and comment on the development of proposed regulations that would further protect freshwater wetlands statewide.

Now that the comment period is closed, Pignataro said the DEC appreciates all of those who submitted comments on the updates during the recent public comment period and looks forward to integrating them into the draft regulatory proposal, which is scheduled to be complete and available for public review and additional opportunities for public comment later this year.

Lakewood Village Trustee Ellen Barnes noted that property owners who are directly affected will see their property values reduced by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lakefront property owners who live closer to Burtis Bay will be impacted the most.

And James Wehrfritz, a former lake consultant with the town of Ellery said it’s estimated that 1,000,000 additional acres of new wetlands will be added state-wide with onerous restrictions on development and use.

Through a Freedom of Information Law request Wehrfritz said property values in the South Basin will decrease.

“Wetland-related regulation of properties not so regulated prior to the new Wetlands Law will surely lose value, assessments will be reduced, associated property and school tax revenue will decline, and tax rates will have to be increased,” Wehrfritz said.

The McMahons have been real estate agents for about 30 years and their predominant market is the lake.

“Keep the lake a lake,” Richard McMahon said.


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