MONTEREY — A proposal to establish a lake district in Monterey is dividing the small town over management of Lake Garfield.
"I don't see this conflict as adversarial," said Carol Edelman, a Select Board member who has come out strongly against the district. "But I don't think this act is necessary."
Residents will vote during a special town meeting Thursday on an article that would establish a taxable district for Lake Garfield, the town's centrally located swimming area and body of water. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the Monterey Fire Company on Main Road.
Under the plan, the district's residents would be taxed for lake improvement projects, such as treatment of the milfoil infestation that has plagued the lake for years.
The act would give the district a number of powers. The district will be able to sue and be sued, to "repair, reconstruct, and maintain Lake Garfield and its beaches," and to take actions to harvest and control the milfoil, and other rights and responsibilities.
"The district needs varying other powers [other than taxation] to investigate and study proper lake management procedures," said Richard Jaffe, a proponent of the plan, in an email to The Eagle. "It also needs certain authority to enforce the collection of taxes as well as any other activities that would be consistent with the task of managing the lake."
Jaffe is a member of the 40-year-old nonprofit Friends of Lake Garfield, which is made up of lakefront residents and people concerned with the lake. He stressed that the district would not be able to do anything the nonprofit— or even any private citizen— couldn't.
That's a concern for residents. There are signs popping up around town saying: "No poisons in the lake: Vote October 6." The signs refer to the perception that the act will allow the district to use chemicals to kill the weeds— chemicals that the town rejected in a referendum in May.
But Michael Germain, who like Jaffe is a proponent of the district, said the signs are part of an unfounded paranoia about the district's aims.
"The Friends have the funds to do this already if they want to," he said.
Jaffe added that any treatment of the milfoil would be subject to environmental review, regardless who was in charge of treating it.
"The job of the district would be to propose projects to the proprietors, which would be voted on at an annual meeting," he said. "All those projects would have to go through the same regulatory process that any citizen or entity would have to go through."
The point was not lost on Edelman, who said if the district won't be doing anything different than the nonprofit or any private citizen, she doesn't see the need for it.
"They're talking about going through the state for these remedies," she said. "If that's the case, then why are they proposing this district?"
Germain said that the district would make lake management more democratic. He pointed to the lake districts around Monterey's Lake Buel and Becket's Goose Pond as indicators that what the warrant article is proposing is hardly an aberration.
"This is not a new or particularly controversial idea," he said.
He'll have to convince residents like JoAnn Bell that it's a good idea.
Bell and her husband, Doug McTavish, were at the lake Monday finishing up a midday boat ride when The Eagle caught up to them.
She said she hopes the town holds off on the district, at least for now. She said she doesn't see the need and doesn't believe the milfoil is enough of a problem to justify the district's creation.
Most importantly, though, she fears the district will cause a division in town between lake residents and others.
"It's everybody's lake," she said.