Appeals court: HOA can file noise complaints over airboats on Lake Hamilton

Article Courtesy of The Ledger

By John Chambliss 

Published January 2, 2016


BARTOW — An appeals court today ruled in favor of a homeowners association in a dispute over whether an airboat company can conduct tours on Lake Hamilton.

The ruling means the Lake Hamilton Lakeshore Owners Association can move forward with its nuisance complaint over excessive noise on the lake by Captain Fred's Airboat Nature Tours.

Doug Lockwood, a lawyer for the homeowners, said today he was pleased with the ruling.

"At least now we have a shot," Lockwood said.

The unanimous decision by a three-judge panel of the Lakeland-based 2nd District Court of Appeal overturns a September 2014, decision by Circuit Judge John Radabaugh. Radabaugh ruled that he didn't intend to interfere with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's authority. He wrote that the airboats cannot be a nuisance because they were authorized by law.

But Appellate Judge Daryl Casanueva disagreed and he was joined by judges Douglas Wallace and Samuel Salario.

Casanueva wrote there can still be a nuisance despite the fact it is legal to operate the airboats.

"The legislative scheme does not reflect a strong public policy rationale to deprive a citizen of their right to avail themselves of a remedy for nuisance," wrote Casanueva.

Homeowners have pushed to regulate airboats on Lake Hamilton since 2012. The Town Council ruled in November 2012, that it couldn't regulate airboats because the lakes were controlled by the state.

Lockwood, who said he represents dozens of homeowners, picked up the case soon afterward. He said now his side will present evidence and witnesses, such as a noise expert, to determine that the airboats are a nuisance.