Chapter Seven - Lake Organizations

PEOPLE WHO live on lake shores enjoy advantages not available to other citizens. They also share responsibilities which may be difficult for them to deal with as individuals. Working with others can stimulate problem solving and offer remedies to lake and watershed problems. Outlined below are four types of organizations of lake property owners which conduct various activities to address lake problems.

Sunset over lake

Lake Association: Concerned volunteers

A lake association is a volunteer organization consisting of interested property owners. There are more than 200 lake associations in Washington State, most of which are organized as non-profit organizations. A lake association is an appropriate organization for promoting stewardship and bringing a community together to form consensus on common goals and objectives. Lake associations are flexible and voluntary. As a result, solutions to lake problems which require large amounts of money usually are not implemented. Membership dues and fund-raisers are the principal means of raising money to fund association activities.

Homeowners' Association: Membership required

A homeowners' association is usually mandatory, established by a developer through recorded deed covenants. The covenants require each lot buyer to be a member of the association and pay dues.

Special Purpose Government: Electing board, paying taxes

A special purpose government allows property owners in unincorporated areas to develop solutions to problems. Examples include water, sewer, stormwater drainage, and conservation districts. The district is run by an elected board and funds are raised by property taxes. A special purpose government can apply for grants but its activities are generally limited by statute.
Lake Management Districts:  Assessing property for funds

The process for forming Lake Management Districts (LMD) is established under state law [Title 36 Revised Code of Washington (RCW) Chapter 36.61] and allows property owners to assess property to finance lake management activities. An LMD may include all or part of one or several lakes. Private and public lake front property, upland lots with access to a community beach area, and any other property within the watershed which benefits from management activities can be included.

Unlike special purpose governments which have their own board of directors, LMDs operate under the authority of the county or city officials, but lake property owner involvement is crucial to a successful program. Owners of at least 15 percent of the acreage in the proposed district must sign a petition to the jurisdiction. A county or city also has the authority to initiate formation of an LMD on its own.

Property may be assessed based on various factors including benefit, use, front footage, acreage, improvements, or service to be provided. The process includes a public hearing and vote. LMD funds may be used to match state or federal grants and can finance a broad range of activities. LMDs can be formed for a specific time period or indefinitely and can be renewed.

Next Chapter - Sources of Money