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Monroe Lake Property Owners To Be Fined For Clearcutting

A kayaker notified local authorities in Bloomington last month that a piece of property on Lake Monroe was clear-cut to the shoreline.

clear cutting

Photo: Bill Shaw

The property owners say they hired a contractor to do some bush hogging, but the contractor continued to clear the property to the shoreline.

Owners of a Monroe Lake-front property that was recently razed to the shoreline say they will take full financial responsibility for restoration of the area, according to Monroe County Planning Department Director Larry Wilson, whose office received a phone call this weekend from Mike Carmin, the property owners’ attorney.

Carmin was in court today and unavailable for comment.

A kayaker last month discovered the property, located at 7240 E. Holly Ln in Bloomington was clear-cut to the shoreline.

The property is registered to Jeffrey and Kenda Newburg of Paradise Valley, Arizona, according to Monroe County property records.

Wilson says the property owners hired a contractor to do some bush hogging, who was instructed not to go further down to the lake. Wilson says the owners claim the contractor disregarded the instructions and clear-cut to the shoreline.

However, Wilson says even if the contractors had followed instructions, the property owners would have been in violation of county ordinance.

“It appears to us that, under our ordinance, they couldn’t have done bush hogging even before the Corps of Engineer land. Even if they had followed the instructions that the landowners said they gave, it would have been a violation of our ordinance,” Wilson says.

The property in question is considered “Area 1,” according to the county’s Environmental Constraints Overlay (ECO) Zone, where the maximum land slope upon which any land disturbance can be done is 12 percent.

The minimum setback distance from the shoreline in the ECO Zone is 125 feet from normal pool elevation. That means that the property owners are not allowed to do any sort of vegetation removal, with the exception of invasive species, for which they would need a permit.

Because the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers owns the land around the lake, the property owners violated both county and federal law.

Wilson says the next step for his office is to evaluate the property to determine exactly what happened and what needs to be done to restore the property. The amount of fines the property owners face depends on that investigation.

The Planning Department will then meet U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plan remediation and restoration.

Wilson says he is glad that the situation is being resolved without litigation, but he is unsure of why the property owners took any clearing action at all.

“It’s pretty hard for anyone in Lake Monroe watershed not to know that they can’t mow to the waterfront. It’s just hard to believe that anyone would ignore that prohibition.”

Taylor Killough

Taylor Killough is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and has studied anthropology and digital journalism. She has professional experience in education and communications and is excited to be a part of the award-winning team at WFIU/WTIU.

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