Florida the rules are different here Chapter LXXXV
Whose lawn is it anyway? This Sarasota Herald-Tribune article details how the town of Lakewood Ranch had unwiittingly been giving two churches free water for several years. Local officials blame a developer for the mixup, but you tell me who you think is responsible for the mixup? You got one guess who I blame.
You just got to love Florida.
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LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Lakewood Ranch taxpayers have been unknowingly footing the irrigation bill for two nearby churches for several years, community officials say.
Community Development District 1 Supervisor Gary Berns was investigating water use when he came across a map that shows district pipes leading to Living Lord Lutheran Church and St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church. But the fees for the water sent to those churches were never charged.
"When the churches were built, pipes were installed coming off our pipes," Berns said. "Someone was charitable."
Living Lord opened in 1994. St. Mary's opened six years later on an adjacent lot.
Pastor Jeff Gross at Living Lord said he was not aware that the church even irrigated its property.
"If anything, we have a problem with standing water," Gross said. "We don't even need it."
Gross said the CDD had not notified the church of the irrigation issue.
The district budgets $167,500 a year to irrigate lawns and common areas with reclaimed and recycled water.
It is not known how many irrigated acres make up CDD 1, but the churches sit on about 15 acres, according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser.
The diverted water would not account for a recent spike in water use, but it was disturbing to CDD 1 supervisors, who said there is no way of knowing how much water has been diverted to the churches since the pipes were laid, or how much in fees the churches avoided.
"We assumed they were on a separate meter, and BRU (Braden River Utilities) was charging them for what they were using.
"It was by accident that we found out," CDD 1 Supervisor Jean Stewart said.
The Rev. Jim Hedman, who has been at St. Mary's for about four months, said he had been told of the problem but knew little about it.
"We want to be good neighbors, and we want to work this all out," he said.
David White, a member of St. Mary's governing board, said the church was investigating the matter.
Water for CDDs comes from Braden River Utilities, a private company owned by Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
Schroeder-Manatee workers could not find the irrigation lines to the churches on any of their maps, but they are investigating the matter, said Bob Weber, senior vice president of operations for LWR Communities LLC, an SMR subsidiary.
Supervisors said it is illegal to use taxpayer money to irrigate church property.
"It's a church-state issue," Berns said.