Lake Wake Story: Woodbury

Bob Martin has served as a lister in Woodbury for over 20 years and as the Town’s zoning administrator for many years. Responsible Wakes interviewed Bob to learn about the effects that wake boats would have on his town.

Bob, I understand that Woodbury holds the record among Vermont towns for having the most lakes and ponds. Is this true?

Yes, Woodbury hosts 26 lakes and ponds. The three largest, with 30,000 feet of shoreline, include 200 homes and camps. The 2006 reappraisal of the three largest lakes parcels was $30 million and will increase to over 40 million dollars in next year’s reappraisal. Currently these 3 lakes support 23% of the town budget and will support even more after the next year’s reappraisal assuming that the lakes maintain their use and quality.

Have you ever seen a wake boat on Woodbury Lake?

Yes, in my over 60 years at Woodbury Lake I saw the first wake surf boat approximately 1500 feet away plowing along with a rider in tow. I also saw many other normal kayakers, paddleboarders, pontoon boats, other craft and swimmers on this sunny July sunday.  Near the middle I noticed a paddleboarder — a mother with her toddler. Eventually everyone headed for shore while I watched the wakeboat waves reach us. When these unusual waves got to our side they lifted a raft off its anchors and slammed it into where I was sitting on a pontoon boat. I was going to start our water ski and tubing boat to go and have a conversation with that unusual newcomer, but they had disappeared. I guess they figured this lake was too small for their needs.

What would happen if wake boats expanded their operations on Woodbury’s lakes?

The lakes would be spoiled. The shores would erode from the wakes. Paddlers and sailors and anglers and pontoons would be injured, or forced ashore. Due to public safety such abnormally large waves exclude the many historic uses of public waters. Residents would suffer the sounds of the 600-watt stereo systems. No one would want to vacation on our Woodbury lakes. Camps on the lakes would lose value.

How do you know this?

I spent 25 years as a lister, appraising property values in the town of Woodbury. And we know from the experience of the listers in the town of Georgia and Saint Albans and Franklin that a spoiled lake sends property values to the bottom in a very short time. Missisquoi Bay, Lake Carmi, and the shores of Lake Champlain in Georgia, were rendered pretty much off-limits to recreation because we didn’t act to stem the spoiling of the lakes. The towns report that because of the value of the lakefront properties sank by as much as 30%, the town’s tax revenue suffered, and the rest of the residents had to pick up the slack.

How might the spoiling of the lakes affect the Town of Woodbury?

I estimate the town would see a decline of at least 15% in shoreline property valuation, thus losing over $100,000 in annual tax revenue. This lost tax revenue would have to be picked up by the town’s other residents. Altogether a disaster for our little town.

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