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No thanks, county says to Lake Osceola offer

Lake Osceola, shown from North Lakeside Drive, is currently drained while work continues on the dam. Lake Osceola, shown from North Lakeside Drive, is currently drained while work continues on the dam.

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Henderson County won't buy Lake Osceloa.

Henderson County commissioners on Wednesday devoted a short discussion to the idea before voting unanimously to tell the lake's owner thanks but no thanks for his offer to sell the lake.

Owner Todd Leoni last month offered to sell the lake to Henderson County for $3 million, saying that the 32-acre lake could be developed for fishing, walking and other recreation.

"I would not be for it right now or maybe never with the condition of the dam," said Commissioner Charlie Messer. "We've got sewer issues and a lot of other issues down the road."

"It is a potential opportunity but I just don't think the county is in a position to consider it," said Chairman Michael Edney.

Commissioner Grady Hawkins added: "I would tell him thanks for the offer but at this point between want and need I don't think we're in a position to venture into the lake business."

Leoni told Henderson County officials in an email he is offering the county the exclusive right to buy the lake as long as it remains a lake forever, maintained by the county and open to the public. The lake, which has had problems with its dam for many years, is not currently filled as work continues on the structure.

"I am upgrading the dam and it will be in full compliance when I turn it over to the county," Leoni said.

Besides the 32-acre lake, Leoni owns lakeside land that he said could be developed for public access. He also owns Mountain Lake Inn on North Lakeside Drive.

"It’s killed my business for the past two years to have it down," he said of the dam. The inn is still open "but we have very limited check-ins because we don’t have a lake."

Once filled, the lake could be a destination for local people and tourists, he said.

Under conditions of his offer, Leoni asked that the property be "maintained as a lake forever, that the county maintains it and manages it and opens it up to the public." Commissioners made no comments and took no action after Leoni appeared before the board on Sept. 5.