It’s a beautiful private lake owned by residents, but what happens if a neighbor starts to throw things in the lake? Can anyone do anything about it? It’s why one South Florida man called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

Some people like to collect rare bikes. Vince does.

Vince Beltran: “This is handmade. The other two are original.”

Some people like to collect antique cars. Vince does that, too.

Vince Beltran: “That’s an original engine.”

In fact, Vince just likes to collect: a Texaco gas pump, an Eastern Airlines bag. On and on.

And everything is restored to perfection.

Vince Beltran: “I like to keep them top stock.”

Patrick Fraser: “So you like things to look nice?”

Vince Beltran: “Yeah.”

Another thing Vince likes to keep in great shape is the freshwater lake behind his house.

Vince Beltran: “The lake is important, yeah, because we enjoy it, you know. We swim in it. I never built a pool because of that reason. The water is nice.”

It’s North Bass Lake in Miami Springs, a self-contained private lake with 40 homes on it.

Over the years, the neighbors have managed it. Lately, Vince says, a few have mismanaged it.

Vince Beltran: “I’ve caught people doing some tricky stuff.”

Vince says one neighbor poisoned the geese that lived there because they pooped on their pool deck. Another dumped fish carcasses in the water.

Vince Beltran: “I’m doing my lawn, and I looked down, and I see this thing with two big eyes that it’s been there like two, three days, and I go, ‘Wow, I thought it was a kid.'”

Vince has confronted neighbors who toss things. He says they would either deny it or cuss him out. Now he is concerned about homeowners that are dumping coconuts and tree branches in the lake.

Vince Beltran: “Limbs and all kinds of stuff and construction materials.”

Patrick Fraser: “What’s wrong with that?”

Vince Beltran: “It all accumulates over there, and then some of it sinks. It’s not natural. I don’t think it’s good for the lake.”

A tree fell in the lake, but there is no association to require the owners to remove it or enforce any rules at the lake.

Since Vince is tired of getting chewed out, he started calling government agencies to check on the lake.

Vince Beltran: “They say they don’t have any jurisdiction. ‘We can’t do this. We can’t do that.'”

Then he tried Code Enforcement to see if they could force homeowners to stop the trashing.

Vince Beltran: “‘Oh, no. I can’t do that, I can’t,’ and she’s nice, but they just don’t get involved.”

It’s a picturesque lake and, Vince has concluded, an unregulated lake.

Patrick Fraser: “You might be the only person in South Florida that wants Code Enforcement to get involved?”

Vince Beltran: “Might be. I got nothing to hide.”

Well, Howard, if it’s a private lake, does that mean no government agency can step in?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “In almost every case, some government agency has jurisdiction. In this case, it would be Code Enforcement. Ask them what steps need to be taken to stop behavior you think hurts the lake, because they can fine a neighbor who violates their laws, and if you want to avoid the government getting involved, create a homeowners association. They can create guidelines and enforce them.”

I contacted the State of Florida and Miami-Dade County to confirm they have no jurisdiction. I was told, since North Bass Lake does not have ingress or egress, they don’t control it.

But Miami Springs does. City Manager William Alonso told me, “If someone is illegally dumping, we can cite them, but we need to either catch them in the act or have some proof, like video or pictures, so that it’s not a ‘he said, she said.'”

Vince Beltran: “I will always keep an eye on it as long as I live here.”

Vince says, now that he knows Code Enforcement does have jurisdiction, he will be ready.

Vince Beltran: “If I see something illegally from now on, I have a canoe, and I go out there and record it instead of approaching them.”

Now, would throwing branches in the lake be considered illegal? Maybe. Look at it this way. If someone threw stuff in your yard, would you like it? No, and since each neighbor owns a slice of the lake, the branches will float onto someone else’s part of the lake, possibly making it illegal. The bottom line: a lake is not a dumping ground.

Things not going swimmingly for you? Ready to make a splash. Let us jump in and soak up the mess.

CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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