A growing band of frustrated residents on Horseshoe Bend is determined to halt what they say is an unchecked problem with noise on Lazy Gators at the 7 mile marker.
Several residents of the bend, many from The Village of Four Seasons, took their case to the Village Board of Trustees this week after first meeting with the Property Owners Association (POA), which also has jurisdiction in some areas of Horseshoe Bend.
Their complaint: noise coming from Lazy Gators, a relatively new development that adjoins Shady Gators on Sweet William Road.
Lazy Gators has been the subject of complaints, Camden County Planning and Zoning meetings and court dates in recent years as residents have attempted to halt the noise and reduce traffic and congestion problems they say can be directly tied to Lazy Gators.
Trustee Arnold Sandbothe, who opened discussion about the issue, said residents are concerned that noise problems on Lazy Gators will continue through the summer even though some believe the area is not properly zoned for that type of activity.
Residents who live in the immediate area and across the cove on Imperial Point have complained numerous times to a variety of entities. Lazy Gators (part of Camden County) is not part of the Village of Four Seasons, but concerned residents hope the Village can help influence change and spread the word that they want the problems to stop. Trustees said while they are sympathetic, there is little they can do since Lazy Gators is not within the Village’s jurisdiction.
Village Attorney Jon Kaltenbronn said becoming a political activist in a situation outside the jurisdiction of the Village isn’t in the best interest of the Village.
While residents understand that Shady Gators is zoned properly to allow noise and alcohol consumption, they don’t believe Lazy Gators is. According to Sandbothe, Lazy Gators operates under a renewable catering or picnic license, but is actually zoned residential where those types of activities are not legal.
“We’re trying to stop the ‘commercial creep’ we see going on there,” one resident told the Village Trustees. “It will be a challenge if we want to protect that cove for all of us to enjoy.”
Lazy Gators has been embroiled in controversy for several years as owner Gary Prewitt has developed the point with a swimming pool, tiki bars and oversized cabanas. Camden County has taken Prewitt to court claiming he is violating the zoning laws.
The group attending the Village meeting says it will continue to visit with residents and work to gather momentum in halting the noise and other concerns.
“One of the issues is that the Camden County Planning and Zoning has little recourse when somebody breaks the rules other than the courts,” a resident said. “We’re not against development, none of us is, as long as the development doesn’t infringe on the residents.
Page 2 of 2 - Our voices are going to be the most important thing in getting this resolved,” a resident said.
Village Clerk Tom Laird encouraged residents to attend Planning and Zoning meetings and Camden County Commissioner meetings.
Three years after the Camden County Commission filed an injunction trying to force the lakefront venue to shut down over a planning and zoning issue, the doors are set to open for the season while the legal wrangling over a zoning issue remains to be resolved.
Lazy Gators opened in 2009 on Sweet William Road next door to Shady Gators, a lakeside restaurant and bar. Developer Gary Prewitt's parent company, Glacier Park Investments, LLC, owns the Gator properties.
Since its opening, Lazy Gators has operated using Shady Gators' catering license. The Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission and Camden County Commission denied requests to rezone Lazy Gators to commercial. The pool, tiki bars, and cabanas are open for business on property still zoned for residential use.
At one time, Prewitt estimated he spent $2.9 million tearing down the house that once stood on the end of Sweet William Road and built the swimming pool, buildings and landscaping that make up the Lazy Gators complex.
The catering permit allows Prewitt to continue to operate even though he is at odds with county over the zoning of the property.
The Lazy Gators property is currently zoned for residential use only. The 1.3-acre parcel where Lazy Gators sits takes in about 1,000 feet of shoreline. Prewitt has built a pool, tiki bar and cabanas. Legally speaking, Lazy Gators patrons are considered guests at private parties.
Attempts by Prewitt to re-zone the property to allow for a commercial entertainment venue through the Camden County Planning and Zoning Commission and the county commission have failed ― as did a move to have the property annexed into the village of Sunrise Beach, located across the lake from the property.