The more things change, the more they stay the same—that is, if you live at Lake Monticello. Located in the middle of Fluvanna County, Lake Monticello looks pretty much the same since this writer swam at the 3,500-acre gated community’s sandy beaches and skateboarded on the tennis courts near the main clubhouse as a teenager in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Everybody knew everybody then. But more people are living at “the Lake” now, helping this private, wooden haven reach near-peak capacity.
Cruising along Jefferson Drive on the way to one of the lakefront properties, Cyndi Mylynne, Realtor with Monticello Country Realtors, must drive at a retirees’ pace. The speed limit is 25 mph on Lake Monticello roads (and if you exceed the speed limit, you might get a ticket from one of the Lake’s finest; it has its own police force). Mylynne says homeowners of all kinds live at Lake Monticello. While it initially attracted retirees after construction wrapped up in 1968, now individuals and families make it their home. Along with retired folks, there are first-time homebuyers wanting a safe place to live with plenty to activities, and those for whom a Lake Monticello property is a weekend retreat. Californians, New Yorkers and others have staked claims here not least because, as Mylynne says, “It’s very quiet at night.”
Though plenty of homeowners think of the lake (and all its amenities) as their vacation spot, it’s also home to year-round residents who raise families and commute to Charlottesville.
We arrive at 1 Sunset Court, one of the homes on the market. It’s a 3,550-square-foot, three-storey, crème-colored house with blue shutters. For $449,500, the new owner will get an airy and sunny home, one with lots of glass and views to the fishing lake. Each of the home’s three bedrooms has direct access to a deck or balcony.
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Other homes here have their own amenities and character. A variety of builders—and, therefore, a variety of housing types—make the Lake what it is. Says Mylynne, who also lives at the Lake, “That’s one thing that I liked about it…You can have brand new construction right next to a house that’s 30 years old.” And prices, accordingly, run the gamut. As of late January, 12 houses were on the market, says Mylynne. Of those, houses range in size from 984 to 5,700 square feet; prices start at $165,900 and go up to $749,900. Eight of the available properties are waterfronts, starting at $399,000.
In general, lots are around a third to half an acre per parcel, but some larger ones are available. You can live inside or outside the gate, but everyone can access the same amenities, many of which are of the recreational variety. Lake Monticello has a P.G.A. golf course, a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts, softball and soccer fields, playgrounds, five beaches for swimming, skiing, and boating, a marina, a campground, clubhouses and a pro shop. It is Fluvanna’s version of Club Med, without the exotic locale—and, well, people live there.
If the amenities weren’t enough, the Lake Monticello Owners’ Association [LMOA] provides certain services for its residents: roadside trash and recycling pickup and snow removal. Residents must pay dues, assessments, and amenity fees for these services (this year the base charge for dues is around $600). To stay up to date on what’s new at the Lake, residents can read the Friday Flyer or tune into cable channel 10 or 14 for LMOA news. The commute to the big city—Charlottesville—is a mere 20 minutes. Richmond is only an hour away and “within two hours you can be at the bottom of D.C.,” Mylynne says.
Beyond the 25 mph speed limit, there are other rules that come with living in Lake Monticello. If you want to build something new on your lot, like a tool shed, or make alterations to your house or property, you have to get it approved by the LMOA’s Environmental Control Committee. That includes any fencing, driveway paving, or exterior colors and materials on your house.
The gates make some Lake Monticellans feel more secure, though one resident says he could take them or leave them.
Less simple life
When this reporter lived near the Lake almost 15 years ago, there were few local conveniences; the closest grocery was a local mom-and-pop store, E. W. Thomas, in Palmyra. Now, Lake residents have a Food Lion right outside the Turkey Sag Trail Gate off Route 53. There’s also a host of other stores, including a Dairy Queen, a Subway, a couple of “sit-down” restaurants—even a jeweler, lest local residents be caught without their baubles. At the Slice Court Gate on Route 600, locals can get their prescriptions filled at the Lake Centre Pharmacy, their car fixed at Palmyra Automotive, pick up a pizza at Dominos, and get a tune up of another kind at the chiropractor.
The style of homes here ranges widely, due to a variety of builders. Residents are, however, bound by common rules.
Tom Tartaglino, who lives in the Riverside section on about two and a half acres outside the gate, says for his family, Lake Monticello’s greatest asset is privacy and protection from development. “I like living here because I know what I’m getting and I know what will be built up around me,” he says.
Tartaglino, who has a son and a daughter, says he knows his neighbors, many of whom are professionals, teachers, or law enforcement officers. Many are also parents—which makes living in his section, at least, safer. “We are always conscious of kids on the road and kids misbehaving or whatever,” he says, “and likewise, when our kids are out, we know that people are looking out for them.”
But do fences—in this case, gates—really make good neighbors? Tartaglino doesn’t think so. “I was never one who could appreciate the gates. And I still don’t care for the gates,” he says. “But a lot of people in Lake Monticello really love the gates and they really think they are working to keep crime down.”