WATERFORD ON FOREST LAKE
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
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
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
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)