Lake Norman homeowner faces fines

A Lake Norman homeowner faces state fines of up to $25,000 a day after his neighbors complained about trees being cut down and sediment running into their cove when the man began clearing his property along Fern Hill Road in Iredell County.

The cove is in the Stumpy Creek area of the lake, north of Mooresville.

The N.C. Division of Water Quality hasn't fined property owner Bob Melvin, but it issued a violation notice Feb. 12 and a continuing notice of violation June 29.

Last week Melvin told the Observer he was working with state environmental officials to make sure the changes he's making to his property are in compliance.

"We've been proactive," Melvin said. "We're just trying to do the best we can."

Michael Burkhard, an environmental specialist with the Division of Water Quality, said he issued the follow-up notice after reinspecting Melvin's property June 24. Melvin has 30 days from the date of the notice to respond in writing, Burkhard said.

"He has responded verbally and needs to give me a timetable for work being completed," Burkhard said.

Burkhard said four trees Melvin planted since the original violation notice had died, and Melvin didn't appear to have planted the 50 native shrubs or place mulch Burkhard recommended in the required 30-foot lake buffer area.

The property was grandfathered when rules changed to require 50-foot buffers along the Catawba River.

"I personally feel like he's tried," Burkhard said. "He is communicating; he is working. He probably just needs some guidance."

Burkhard said he advised Melvin to consult Iredell County erosion control officials about how to prevent runoff.

Melvin said he met with state and Duke Energy officials at his property before he made any changes.

He said he intended to cut down only a tree that was about to fall on neighbor Dick Camery's boathouse, but a worker he hired cut down more trees than he was supposed to. Melvin said he intends to plant the native shrubbery, but not until fall, when conditions are more suitable.

Burkhard, meanwhile, said he doesn't consider sediment that has run into the cove from Melvin's property to be a significant amount, although he said he understands the neighbors' concerns.

Burkhard noted that many of the trees residents fear were cut within the buffer were outside the 30-foot zone. Neighbors said about 100 trees were cut down.

Homeowner Dave Ferguson of nearby Broadview Circle pointed to where an egret's nest used to be in a tree on Melvin's property. "The nest has disappeared" because of the disruption to the land, he said.

Marine veteran Camery said sediment runoff from the property has changed the scenic nature of the cove, where he's lived nearly 30 years.

"That used to be a nice sandy beach," he said, pointing to one area. "Now it's all mud. Plain old mud."

Melvin said he cleared land beyond the 30-foot buffer so his and his wife's children, ages 5 and 8, can have a place to play.

He also said he's using as many reclaimed and recycled items as possible on his property, which he bought at a bank short sale. He's using 700 cubic yards of recycled concrete for the home's new retaining wall, and reclaimed windows that were headed for a landfill.

"We're trying to make a concerted effort to do things right and keep things out of the landfill," Melvin said.