A BRIEF HISTORY OF LAKE SUZY ESTATES
This document is dedicated to all the residents of Lake Suzy Estates – past, present and future. It is meant to serve as an informative, historical and factual summary of our brief but exciting history. It was conceived out of a deep love of community and in the spirit of community service. This publication is not meant to be an exhaustive chronological history of Lake Suzy Estates but, rather, to serve as a reminder of all those who have served, volunteered or otherwise contributed to our community’s history and legacy in whatever way, large or small.
We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed producing it. From the archival documents left behind by our predecessors, and through the combined efforts of a few long time Lake Suzy Estates residents, we are proud to share this work with you. It’s our way of saying thanks for all that you have done.
The Early Years
Just over 40 years ago, what we know today as Lake Suzy Estates (LSE) was old Florida grasslands and vegetation used primarily as a cow pasture and, to a lesser extent, by hunters. There was no lake at that time. As far back as the 1920’s, the property in the area was known as the “Loreda Park Subdivision” creating 50’ x 100’ lots. In 1968, Ben and Harriett Shepard acquired the land from the family of Felton Garner (former Commissioner in DeSoto County). Ben and Harriett turned the property east of Kings Highway over to their son, David, for future development.
David believed that to develop the property, it would require an amenity – or something that would attract would-be buyers. That amenity would be a lake. The design of the Lake was, as Dave explains, to “add mystery.” The intent was that no matter where one stood overlooking the Lake, you could not see the end. Mystery would be evident around every bend! In 1971, Dave began the excavation of the Lake at the corner of Ben Drive and Kings Row. As Dave described, “once you dig a hole in Florida groundwater begins to fill it up and within fifteen minutes the alligators arrive!” Heavy duty pumps were installed to keep the Lake mostly dry during the entire excavation process. A big problem with the excavation, Dave explained, was disposing of the fill. Approximately one million cubic yards needed to be excavated and removed. But to where? Dave made arrangements with a general road contractor to excavate, at the contractor’s cost, approximately 100,000 cubic yards of dirt to be used for developing Kings Highway. This arrangement was cheaper for the contractor, says David, than to have the dirt brought in from elsewhere. However, before Kings Highway got paved, nearly 300,000 cubic yards were deposited on the west side of Kings Highway for the development of the golf course. The remaining 600,000 cubic yards were sold to trucking companies as landfill in the Port Charlotte/Punta Gorda area. Excavation of Lake Suzy was finally completed in 1976.
In July 1972, the property was conveyed by a warranty deed to Loreda Development, Inc. In October 1972, the plat for Lake Suzy Estates was recorded by David Shepard, president of Loreda Development, Inc. The plat consisted of 245 parcels. The 245 parcel plat included the division of lakefront property into 182 lots. The recorded Plat Restrictions approved by DeSoto County made Lake Suzy a private lake, not for use by the public. All lake front property owners own an undivided share of the lake. The Plat Restrictions state “That a one-one hundred and eighty-second (1/182) undivided share in and to the lake as shown on the attached plat and designated “Lake Suzy” is hereby created appurtenant to the title in and to each of the 182 lots contiguous to said lake; that the owners, their successors or assigns, of said 182 lots and said undivided shares shall be responsible for the maintenance of said lake in accordance with FL Dept. Of Pollution Control standards; that said undivided shares shall be administered by the said Loreda Development, Inc. until such time as all lakefront lots are sold and/or until such time as a lakefront homeowners association may be formed for purposes of joint maintenance…”
In September 1972, street names replaced those shown on the old Loreda Park Subdivision Plat. The Plat included a number of unpaved roads named 1st Avenue through 15th Avenue. 1st Avenue was later renamed Courtly Manor Drive. 5th and 6th Avenues, extending west from Boland Street, are now respectively Dallas Drive South and Dallas Drive North. 13th Avenue was renamed Ben Drive. The Avenues in between were vacated. Boland Street was later renamed Kings Row and 1st Court was renamed David Drive. It is of interest to note that both 5th and 6th Avenues needed to be retained because six private lots bordering those streets required access. These same six lots, even though they are within the confines of Lake Suzy Estates, remain part of the “Loreda Park Subdivision.” These lots are still owned by a New York family and are now part of the LSPOA lot mowing program.
Naming of the eight streets within Lake Suzy Estates is primarily attributed to the developer’s family; Ben Drive (after a grand-son), Courtly Manor Drive, David Drive, and Kings Row (names suggested by a former David Drive resident), Doug Drive (a son-in-law), both Dallas Drives and Sheri Avenue (named after David’s son and daughter), and, of course, Suzy Avenue as well as Lake Suzy itself (named after the developer’s wife).
In 1974, David built his home on Suzy Avenue, an unpaved road, and lived there with his family until 1990. The roads within Lake Suzy Estates were paved in 1978/1979. Aside from his residence, David did not build any other homes within the new community. Rather, he sold the lots to individual buyers.
In October 1985, an amended plat for Lake Suzy Estates was recorded by David Shepard. The amended plat re-platted the parcels from 245 to 268 in number. Permission was granted by the County to re-subdivide a portion of the original lots (essentially those along Kings Highway and known as Lots 24 through 52) into 52 smaller lots and designated this subdivision as Lake Suzy Villas.
Lake Suzy is approximately 42 acres in size with a depth of up to 10 feet. The Lake serves the community primarily in three ways: 1. Focal point in SW DeSoto County for storm water drainage; 2. Source of irrigation for all residences bordering its shores and,3. Recreational use.
Lake Suzy – Storm Water Drainage Focal Point
Lake Suzy serves an important function as the focal point for storm water drainage in the southwest portion of DeSoto County. In addition to the Lake Suzy Estate properties, lakes and properties on the west side of Kings Highway affect the level of Lake Suzy. Drainage water is directed from Lakes Pembroke, Nancy, and Poochehatchee through the golf course communities into a 48” pipe that runs under Kings Highway into Lake Suzy.
A weir, or cement structure, was constructed so that Lake Suzy would be controlled at an elevation of 22.2 feet above sea level. The structure, located behind a residence on Courtly Manor Drive, controls the amount of water that flows from Lake Suzy through two 42” drainage pipes under Courtly Manor Drive into the DeSoto Canal. The DeSoto Canal is a drainage ditch about 15-20 feet wide and 8-10 feet deep that runs approximately three miles east from Kings Highway to the Peace River. The Canal generally marks the boundary between DeSoto and Charlotte Counties. The Canal serves not only water flowing from Lake Suzy, but also the Parker DeSoto property directly east of Lake Suzy Estates and several thousand properties in the Deep Creek section of Charlotte County. The DeSoto Canal discharges directly into the Peace River which flows into Charlotte Harbor/Gulf of Mexico.
Recreational Use of Lake
The recorded 1972 Plat Restrictions permit property owners and their guests to use the Lake for boating and/or fishing. The Restrictions state “That the owners of said 182 lots and said undivided shares shall have joint and several rights to bathe in the waters of said lake and in a lawful and sportsmanlike manner to boat and fish on the waters thereof; that the uses and privileges herein granted shall be extended to the families of said owners, their heirs, successors or assigns, lessees or tenants, and invitees or guests.” Despite this language, it is recommended that no one swim in the lake as we do have alligators and a substantial population of leatherback (snapping) turtles.
During the period of 1992/1993 a group of residents and would-be-fishermen took a trip to Gainesville and returned with Bream and Tilapia. It was the first time that fish had formally been introduced to Lake Suzy. Again, in May, 1998 residents stocked the lake with 800 largemouth bass, 400 bluegill, 400 black crappie, and 400 shiners. Resident fishermen have been enjoying the fishing on Lake Suzy ever since. Hearsay has it that someone in the County office remembered Lake Suzy from years ago and said, “for a lake that was never stocked, Lake Suzy has the biggest largemouth bass he had ever seen.”
In 1994, many residents were disturbed by the use of the lake by outsiders who would launch their boats and proceed to fish. To enhance the identification of unauthorized boats, LSPOA decided to purchase identification decals and distribute them to residents to affix to their boats. “No Trespassing” signs were later installed in the lake in a couple of popular entry sites. To keep poachers off our lake and to reduce possible pollutants from foreign watercraft, the Sheriff Dept. cooperates with LSE residents to remove the unauthorized watercraft and their operators. This policy is still in effect today.
With increased usage of the lake for boating and fishing, a group of residents in 2006 created a “Lake Suzy Boating & Fishing Policy” which designated Lake Suzy as “Catch and Release” for all bass species. The policy in its entirety can be found on the LSE community web site under the “LSPOA News” tab.
The recorded Deed Restrictions also provide limitations on lake usage. The Restrictions state “that no powerboat or other mechanically powered watercraft or device driven or propelled by other than man-power, sail, or electric motor shall be used or operated on Lake Suzy.”
Additionally, all State of Florida license requirements and fishing regulations must be followed.
Creation of Lake Suzy Homeowners Association, Inc. in 1989 and the Lake Suzy Lake Maintenance Corporation, Inc. in 1993
In April 1989, the Lake Suzy Homeowners Association, Inc. was created by Articles of Incorporation filed with the Florida Secretary of State. The Association was a not-for-profit corporation to serve the needs of all its residents and consisted of voluntary membership.
In October 1991, Loreda Development notified the Lake Suzy Homeowners Association that Loreda would no longer be responsible for administering a lake maintenance contract. At the time, the lake was heavily infested with aquatic weeds. The Homeowners Association formed an ad hoc committee to explore the feasibility of the lakefront property owners assuming the responsibility of lake maintenance. In order to legally meet the provisions of the Plat Restrictions, the Lake Suzy Lake Maintenance Corporation (LSLMC) was formed in March 1993 and Loreda Development formally transferred authority and responsibility for lake maintenance to this corporation.
In July 1992, the Lake Suzy Homeowners Association, Inc. filed amended Articles of Incorporation with the Florida Secretary of State changing its name to Lake Suzy Property Owners Association, Inc. (LSPOA), since membership had been opened up to all property owners (lot owners as well as home owners).
The primary objective of the Association was to “upgrade various standards of the Lake Suzy community whenever and wherever possible; to encourage the construction of new homes desirable and beneficial to the Lake Suzy community; and to oppose any variances and/or code changes which might tend to denigrate the high standards of the community.”
Recordation of Declaration of Restrictions in 1973 and Subsequent Amendments
In May 1973, David Shepard, president of Loreda Development, recorded the Declarations of Restrictions. The Declaration provided use and maintenance restrictions on the properties of Lake Suzy Estates. The Restrictions also gave the Developer the legal right to enforce the restrictions.
In March 1999, David Shepard, president of Loreda Development, Inc., along with the Architectural Committee named therein, recorded a document titled “Amendment to Declaration of Restrictions of Lake Suzy Estates” which changed several provisions of the original 1973 Declaration of Restrictions. Among the changes was the prohibition of fences.
In July 2003, David Shepard, president of Loreda Development, Inc., recorded an Assignment and Acceptance of Rights. The document assigned Loreda Development’s rights of enforcement of the Declaration of Restrictions to the Lake Suzy Property Owners Association, Inc. The Assignment provided LSPOA with the sole authority to enforce the Deed Restrictions for Lake Suzy Estates. Accordingly, Loreda Development and/or David Shepard no longer had the authority to enforce the Deed Restrictions on behalf of LSPOA.
In September 2006, the LSPOA reaffirmed the Deed Restrictions to ensure that all provisions of the 2003 Deed Restrictions passed from the developer would be consistently enforced in a timely and uniform manner.
Legal Challenges Effecting Organizational Authority
Shortly after the Lake Suzy Lake Maintenance Corporation was established, the assumption of authority and responsibility of the Corporation was challenged. In April 1994, the Court ruled that the Corporation has the authority to assess a lake maintenance fee on all 182 lot owners and to administer an appropriate contract.
In July 2007, a lawsuit challenged the validity of a Notice of Preservation of Use Restrictions recorded by LSPOA in July 2002. The core of the controversy was a disagreement over the effect of Chapter 712, Florida Statutes, the Marketable Record Title Act (“MRTA”) upon the Declaration of Restrictions of Lake Suzy Estates. The Court ruled in favor of the Association and found that the Declaration of Restrictions was not extinguished by MRTA. As such, the 2003 Deed Restrictions that LSPOA inherited from the Developer remain in full legal force and effect. The Court also ruled that LSPOA must operate as a 100% voluntary organization.
Major Weather Event in 2004
Lake Suzy was severely impacted by Hurricane Charley on Friday, August 13, 2004. The hurricane, predicted to hit Tampa as a category 2 hurricane, took a last-minute right hand turn and intensified into a category 4 storm as it made landfall near Charlotte Harbor. The storm’s 145 mph maximum sustained winds caused significant damage to most homes in the area. During the following months, community meetings with prospective contractors and Government officials were held in order to help residents restore their homes.
Installation of Sidewalks in 2010
In May 2009, several Lake Suzy Estates residents attended a public meeting with DeSoto County officials to provide input with respect to the County’s plans to begin installing sidewalks in Lake Suzy Estates. The sidewalks are part of a Florida State mandate to develop a “DeSoto County Greenway, Bicycle and Sidewalk System” which will connect to a network covering the entire state. Lake Suzy was the perfect location to begin as it is located at the convergence of DeSoto, Charlotte and Sarasota Counties. The Lake Suzy Estates sidewalks will eventually connect to the sidewalks to be constructed along Kings Highway in Charlotte County ending at the DeSoto County line (Courtly Manor Drive).
With our sidewalks, the first inter-County connection has been made. Encircling the perimeter of Lake Suzy Estates, the sidewalks were completed in 2010 and provide several benefits to the community. The “finished” look enhances property values while providing its residents with a safe and healthy recreational activity to walk and bike. As a result of installing the sidewalks, the County has assumed the mowing around its border at no additional cost to residents.
Expanded Role of the Beautification Committee
In January 2012, the Beautification Committee (BC), an extension of the LSPOA, began an expanded effort to enhance beautification in the community. Beautification Committee volunteers serve as stewards of community assets, overseeing the improvement and beautification of County property within the confines of LSE. Working hand-in-hand with County officials, improvement proposals are nearly always approved. In exchange, the LSPOA/BC assumes the maintenance and upkeep of Courtly Manor Park and the islands.
During 2012, Lake Suzy Estates saw dramatic beautification and functional improvements, most notably at Courtly Manor Park and the Courtly Manor Drive front entrance including:
Courtly Manor Park
•Electrical outlets and a 23’ well installed
•Community bulletin board re-located and installed
•Planting bed installed in front of re-located bulletin board
•Planting of shrubs and trees
•Installation of permanent table, seats and bird bath
•Berm and planting bed installed behind the flagpole
•“Estates” added to the Lake Suzy wall
•Installation of pylons and nautical decorations
•Installation of sprinkler system
•Planting of shrubs
Annual Community Events
Christmas Boat Parade and Open House
Since 2005, residents of Lake Suzy Estates have organized and participated in the Christmas boat parade around the entire perimeter of Lake Suzy. Boat owners decorate their boats with festive Christmas lights and decorations, while residents and friends on shore watch the festivities from their docks and lanais. Immediately following the boat parade, all residents and guests are welcomed to the home of Jack and Esther Boyer to enjoy one another’s company and partake in holiday cheer!
Flag Dedication and Veterans Day Celebration
On February 24, 2007, members of the Lake Suzy Property Owners and Lake Suzy Patio Homes Property Owners Associations conducted a flag pole dedication ceremony at the intersection of Courtly Manor Drive and Kings Highway. Many County dignitaries, residents and members of the DeSoto County Honor Guard were present for the initial raising of Old Glory on the newly installed 33’ fiberglass flagpole. Since that time, an annual Veterans Day Celebration is held in November at Courtly Manor Park to honor all our veterans.
Bass Fishing Tournament
Beginning in 2010, a group of avid boaters and fishermen created the “Annual LSE Bass Fishing Tournament.” It is open to all residents and guests. A homemade trophy is presented to the winner of the largest fish (longest) and for the most regulation bass caught. Following the tournament, all residents and guests are welcome to join in with the anglers at Courtly Manor Park to participate in the trophy presentations and celebration and enjoy lunch prepared by residents.
Beautification Yard Sale
In February/March, members of the Beautification Committee hold a large yard sale at Courtly Manor Park. The yard sale is made possible through donations from LSE residents with all proceeds going directly to beautification projects.
Lake Suzy Estates Web Site
With a tag line of “Making A Difference Through Community Service,” the Lake Suzy Estates community web site was developed and introduced in 2005. It served as an informational news source for all residents as well as for prospective home buyers. In 2016 a new website was developed and it provides the latest information on our community, including a calendar of upcoming events. It also contains important viewable document such as the LSE Deed Restrictions and the LSPOA By-Laws. The new web site is officially named http://www.LSPOA.net
•The Lake Suzy News newsletter was first published in July, 1990.
•Although LSE roads were paved in 1978/1979, it wasn’t until March, 1994 that DeSoto County accepted the roads at a Board of County Commissioner’s meeting. The roads, however, continued to degrade. In 1998, a LSE committee was formed for the purpose of getting the community roads resurfaced by the County. Several meetings and presentations later, the County approved a “Micro Resurfacing” process for our roads. The project was completed in July, 2000.
•In the early 90’s there were street lights within LSE, but most of them were not activated. To activate a particular street light in front or near a residence, each individual homeowner had to contact the utility company (FPL) and agree to pay a monthly service charge. Some homeowners agreed to this arrangement, but many did not. As a result, a majority of street lights were not turned on. To remedy the situation, the LSPOA decided to have a special lighting district created by the County. This required the consent of a majority of the property owners. After the necessary signatures were secured, the Association petitioned the County to establish the Lake Suzy Street lighting District (an MSBU). The Board of County Commissioners approved the establishment of this MSBU in September, 1994, which resulted in the activation of all street lights as well as the addition of a number of new lights.
•The Beautification Committee has existed in LSE at least as far back as the early 90’s. One of their projects in 1994 included the planting of Oleanders along Courtly Manor Drive and several hundred Canary Date Palms along Kings Row and the islands. As the story goes, a resident at the time, who owned a local nursery, had an agreement with the Lake Suzy Lake Maintenance Corporation that in exchange for deferring his mandatory member dues for the year he would donate the Canary Date Palms. The rest, as we say, is LSE history!
•In 1994, the Welcoming Committee was established for the purpose of greeting new residents to the community. The Committee visits newcomers and presents them with a “Welcome Package” of community information.
•As a result of many undeveloped lots becoming overgrown and unsightly, LSPOA in 1995, created the vacant lot mowing program. This program is still in effect today, with each vacant lot being mowed a minimum of six times a year and the lot owners assessed for the cost.
•In the summer of 1995, two LSE residents found themselves in rescue mode when a Brahma calf found his way into the lake. After calling County Animal Control they were told that the County could only assist with dogs and cats and that they should contact the Sheriff’s office which, of course, they did. Before the police could arrive our fearless residents grabbed a rope, jumped onto a boat and headed out to lasso the stray calf. Combining their past experiences (one had been a dairy farmer and the other a law enforcement officer) they managed to slip the rope around the calf’s neck, pull him ashore and tie him to a tree. The Sheriff arrived shortly after to transport the fortunate calf away.
•In 1996, the Department of Transportation agreed to include Lake Suzy on their next published Florida map. In 1998, AAA State of Florida highway maps followed suit.
•In 1996, Lake Suzy, an unincorporated community in DeSoto County, was added to the Postal Service’s National Data Base. However, it continued using the Arcadia zip code of 33821. In 1998, this zip code was changed to 34266. In 2002, Lake Suzy was assigned its own zip code of 34269, a subset of the Arcadia zip code. This separate zip code facilitates a faster mail delivery.
•In 1996, correspondence was initiated with the Florida Department of Transportation requesting inclusion of “Lake Suzy” on the I-75 highway signs at exit 31 (now 170). In 1999, the signs were erected.
•In 1997, a decorative “Lake Suzy” auto plate with LSE logo was designed by a LSE resident and made available to all Lake Suzy Estates residents. They proved to be quite popular and, today, many residents display them on their vehicles.
*In 2004, our community demonstrated a united effort to oppose a Planned Unit Development (PUD) proposed by the Jack Parker Corporation. That PUD would have several adverse impacts on Lake Suzy Estates. Plans for their 999 unit Parker DeSoto Development included building 335 Condos along Kings Row and directing traffic onto Courtly Manor Drive. After several struggles with Parker and well-planned presentations before the DeSoto County Commissioners, we won many concessions. Only single family houses would be built along Kings Row and the Courtly Manor entrance was restricted. The New York attorney for Parker said he had never seen such an impressive presentation by a community.
•Did you know that prior to 2005, trash pick-up, arranged by the County, required residents to place tags on each trash bag at a cost of $1.50 per tag? Tags could be purchased at the Lake Suzy convenience store on Kings Highway. Trash pick-up fees are now added to our annual Property Tax assessment.
•In 2005, the Neighborhood Watch Program (NWP) was given increased emphasis with the installation of two new NWP signs at the corner of Courtly Manor Drive/Doug Drive and at the corner of Ben Drive/Sheri Avenue. The designated Lake Suzy Estates NWP Coordinator works closely with the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Dept. to help assure the safety of the community.
* In June, 2007 Courtly Manor Park became an official County park.
•In 2008, two “Sandhill Crane Area” signs were installed along Courtly Manor Drive and Ben Drive. They were designed by a LSE resident and installed by the County.
•In 2008, the first “official” LSE Christmas Tree (red cedar) was planted at Courtly Manor Park.
* Written and published by LSPOA, 'A Brief History of Lake Suzy Estates', was distributed to all residents in May, 2013.
* In February 2014, lighting was installed at the Courtly Manor entrance. The cost to install two spot lights to light up 'Lake Suzy Estates' and logo along with a single spot light to light up the American Flag was equally shared by Beautification Committee, Lake Suzy Property Owners Association and the Lake Suzy Patio Homes Association. The lights are on a timer to go on at dusk and off at dawn.
* In March 2015 despite the objections and concerns of several Lake Suzy area residents, the Desoto Board of County Commissioners unanimously passed the Sonoma Preserve PUD rezoning concept plan. Sonoma is looking to build up to 999 single-family or 599 multi-family homes on the property. Many will border Lake Suzy Estates and Kings Row. The Commissioners did, however, confirm that Courtly Manor would be restricted as an emergency access only.
*Desoto County totals more than 680 square miles. The Lake Suzy area is approximately 16 square miles. Per the 2010 census, Desoto County's population is around 35,000. Lake Suzy's population is about 4,000. Therefore, Lake Suzy houses more than 11% of Desoto County's population while occupying about 2% of the total acreage in DeSoto County.