First developers drained Florida swamps. Now, with , they’re filling in the lakes.
Consider the case of the incredible shrinking Sailboat Lake. Over the past 50 years, as more homes and industrial buildings have gone up in Deerfield Beach, it has shriveled from a 700-acre, spring-fed oasis to a lake covering less than 150 acres.
Now the watery expanse mostly north of Sample Road could get even smaller.
Under a proposal, about 10 percent of what remains of the lake would vanish, allowing a commercial development to take its place. It’ll be no small feat to do this: Filling in about 15 acres with truckloads of rocks and concrete could take four to five years.
Seaview Realty, a Rhode Island-based corporation, sold a section of lake to Sample Lake Property LLC last year for $1.7 million, Broward property appraiser’s records show.
The new owners say filling in their part of the lake — situated on the southwest part of the watery expanse — won’t affect other parts of the water body, because it’s already sectioned off by a berm.
“This is developable land,” said Richard Coker, an attorney representing the owners, Uhel and Linda Polly. “My clients bought this land and have every right to use it in accordance with the city’s land-development regulations.”
Coker bristles at the notion that his clients’ property is a “lake.” He calls it a borrow pit, a term for an area where material was dug for use at another location.
“You are talking about a water body that is completely enclosed by an earthen berm. It’s not like it’s recreation, where people would Jet Ski,” Coker said.
Still, some residents who live in the nearby Crystal Lake condos have grown attached to the entire lake as it is today. “I’ve been fighting for this lake for 20 years,” said Linda Mooney, a longtime resident.
The lake is mostly bounded by Powerline Road to the west, Sample Road to the south, Military Trail to the east, and Green Road to the north.
Thousands of residents live in condos and homes on the northeast end of the lake, also is known as Crystal Lake, a name inspired by its crystal-clear water decades ago.
A dredging firm, Rowan Construction, dredged the lake for at least a decade around the 1990s, sometimes filling in the lake for development, sometimes removing dirt to sell as fill elsewhere.
Some assumed buying on the water meant the lake never would be developed.
“The green space is gone and now they want to take more of the lake away,” said Kathy Barker, a resident of the Crystal Lake community. The lake “has been whittled away over the years, and this is what we have left.”
Broward County 70 years ago was a drained swampland of 40,000 people. Through the years, , leaving little land vacant amid a population today of about 1.9 million.
In the 1990s, draining 10,000 acres of the Everglades helped create Weston in Broward’s western fringes.
The phenomenon has endured. In the past decade, more than 1,300 acres of lakes, ponds and canals across Broward have been filled in for development and other uses, according to the Broward County Property Appraiser’s Office.
For the Sailboat Lake proposal, the recently rebuffed one aspect of the lake-filling project. But Coker said Deerfield’s part of the equation shouldn’t be anything more than an administrative approval.
He said his client will obtain approval by a way around the Deerfield City Commission, but declined to say how. Coker said it’s too early to say exactly what kind of commercial development would be built.
“This has been through a rigorous approval process,” said Coker, referring to decisions already made at the county government level.
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