Lake Norman & Mooresville

High-powered boats among many issues

Chuck and Marianne Renwick were in their 12-foot johnboat on Lake Davidson when, as Chuck Renwick recalls, they were sideswiped and nearly capsized by a high-powered ski boat.

“As the ski boat bore down on us on a direct collision course, I frantically waved a canoe paddle in the air and screamed at the top of my lungs,” the resident of Spinnaker Point in Davidson said. “The boat kept on speeding straight at us. It was the most helpless and terrifying moment I've ever experienced.”

Chuck Renwick recounted the story at a public meeting last week called by Mooresville and Davidson officials studying lake preservation measures. The 341-acre lake is separated from Lake Norman by I-77 in north Mecklenburg and south Iredell.

The Renwicks still have nightmares from the Aug. 9 encounter, Chuck Renwick told the group. He urged the officials to confine powerboats to neighboring Lake Norman and other larger public lakes.

“Property development is going to continue around Lake Davidson,” Renwick said. “This is as inevitable as the sun rising in the east. We believe our property values are enhanced by the unique calm, quiet and pristine waters of Lake Davidson.”

Lake Davidson's future has galvanized residents like few other lake issues this year, with one camp supporting such restrictions as a 10-horsepower limit on all Lake Davidson boats and another contending that the lake should remain open to all types of water sports and craft.

About 150 residents attended last week's meeting at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville.

“We feel a body of water the size of Lake Davidson can include wakeboarding, tubing and skiing as well,” Terry Lord, president of the Lake Norman Ski Club, told the gathering. To not allow boats with engines greater than 10 horsepower would be “eliminating a recreational resource for a large group of citizens,” he said.

Officials should even consider creating a park with all types of outdoor recreation on the lake, skier Becky Fox of Mooresville urged.

Members of the PLEASE@Lake Davidson citizens group said runoff from development is the far greater threat to lake quality, not boat motors. Member Pam Pearson, a lawyer, also cited a letter sent to Davidson by Paul Mrzlak, executive director of the Lake Norman Marine Commission.

“We don't believe that the Town of Davidson has the authority to impose (horsepower) limitations on the boats that use Lake Davidson,” Mrzlak wrote.

He also said the ski slalom course on the lake should stay. “This ski boat activity dates back for several decades, and no problems with this usage have ever been reported to the Lake Norman Marine Commission,” Mrzlak wrote.

Other residents contended at the meeting that Lake Davidson, at 1 percent the size of Lake Norman, shouldn't have boats with high-powered motors.

“We are grateful that the water quality of the lake today is good,” said Doug Oldenburg, who lives on Lake Davidson and spoke in behalf of the Friends of Lake Davidson citizens group. “But what will happen to the water quality when the entire shoreline is developed? What would happen to our lake's water quality if the number of big boats on this small lake is doubled or tripled or quadrupled? We believe our water quality would quickly diminish.”

Members of the Davidson Quaker Meeting also urged protection against high-powered boats, saying they backed the recommendations of the Davidson Lands Conservancy.

The conservancy wants Lake Davidson limited to passive watercraft including canoes, kayaks and sailboats and other small boats powered by electric motors. It urges public access points for such watercraft on both the north and south shores, and government enforcement of lake regulations. It also wants permanent 200-foot wide natural buffers on all shoreline without existing development, with walking trails allowed.

Since 1980, when development of Spinnaker Cove began on Lake Davidson, the Davidson Town Board has regulated the size of boat motors through zoning. Each subsequent town board conditioned approvals of Lake Davidson subdivision plans on the 10-horsepower limit.

Davidson and Mooresville have discussed an “interlocal agreement” for several years that would make uniform the restrictions on boats docked at or accessing the lake. Discussions began when plans emerged for a large subdivision on the lake's north shore in south Iredell. Work on the development's 400 to 600 homes won't begin for several years, officials have said.

Davidson approved the interlocal agreement last year, but Mooresville postponed a decision to further examine the issue. That's when the “working group” of officials formed – the group that held last week's public meeting.

If approved by Mooresville, the agreement would in part allow no put-in areas for boats with motors greater than 10 horsepower; most larger boats get on Lake Davidson from put-ins on the Mooresville side. It also would ban watercraft with motors greater than 10 horsepower from docking on the lake, except as authorized by police or fire officials.

The working group will meet several more times this year before deciding whether to recommend any action to their full town boards.

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