Waterford subdivision a welcoming place for newcomers

The day Waterford went to the dogs was actually a reflection of the neighborhood's sense of fun.

On a cool but cloudless October Sunday, 33 dogs and about 100 people turned out for the south Lexington subdivision's first Festival of the Dog.

"I just hope we don't have the world's largest dogfight," deadpanned Ken Walker moments before the show began.

He didn't need to worry. The dogs were on their best behavior throughout the two-hour event on the grounds of Waterford Commons, the neighborhood clubhouse on Clear water Way.

There were contests for the tallest, shortest and fuzziest dogs. There was a costume contest (one dog wore a hula skirt; another came to the party as a cluster of grapes a la Fruit-of-the-Loom). Still others were judged for being the most vocal, most obedient and for performing the best trick.

The event also benefited the Lexington Humane Society because the registration fee was a donation of cash or dog food to that organization.

That's the way Waterford is. These folks will use any excuse to have fun, and to help others while doing it.

"We're a neighborhood of doers," said James Morris, who has lived in Waterford since 1991.

Said Cyndi Dodson, a 15-year resident: "There may be prettier neighborhoods with newer homes and finer grounds, but just in terms of the core group of people, it's a great neighborhood."

"It's a good place to raise children, but it's a good place to retire, too," said Mark Pasquariello, a board member of the Waterford Homeowners Association. "It's a very safe community. We don't have too much trouble here."

Located on the south side of Man o' War Boulevard between Saron Drive and Victoria Way, Waterford was developed by Ball Homes in the early 1990s.

The subdivision's entrance with ponds and fountains on both sides of Clearwater Way is a familiar sight to drivers on Man o' War. Feeding the mallards on the western pond is a popular pastime for residents on long summer evenings.

Today, Waterford has 682 single-family houses that typically sell for $250,000 to $325,000, said Rudy Moeller Jr., a financial consultant and president of the homeowners association.

The mommy network

One thing that has helped Waterford become a cohesive neighborhood is that many residents were not native to Kentucky or to Lexington, so they were open to newcomers.

"This has become a great place to develop extended family," Moeller said.

For example, when Craig Dance and his wife, Beth Wright, moved to Waterford from Northern Kentucky, "I didn't know anybody in town except a couple of guys I practice law with," Dance said. "A lot of people are not from here so they're receptive to meeting new people."

Another factor that has brought people together is the neighborhood swim team, the Waterford Waverunners. Dodson said that when her 21-year-old daughter, Danielle — now a senior at Centre College — opens her closet at home, the door is lined with 11 years of photos from her time on the swim team.

"It's one of the things that I consider one of the biggest blessings of my life — that we moved to this neighborhood," Danielle said. "I joined the swim team when I was like 6 or 7 years old. My whole life I've had this awesome support system.

"We call it The Mommy Network," Danielle added, laughing. "They talk all the time so, of course, as soon as anything happens, within the hour it's on The Mommy Network. So they take good care of us if anything unfortunate happens. People show up with more food than you can possibly believe."

When Dance's 83-year-old father died Oct. 10, perhaps 20 Waterford residents drove the hourlong trip to Grant County for the funeral home visitation.

"It was gratifying to know that the folks in the neighborhood who lived around me cared enough to take some time out of their day to come pay their respects," Dance said. "It doesn't surprise me. Most of them were over to my house Friday night the day he died, just to come by and say hi and show their support. That's the way they are around here."

People and dogs dress up

If Waterford residents are supportive in times of crisis, they also will take any opportunity to have organized fun. Dance's wife, Beth Wright, is head of the social committee that puts together neighborhood events.

"We've had wine-tastings in the fall. We've had food competitions. We've had the Oscar parties. We had the Summer Solstice party, which was a toga party," Wright said shortly before the October dog show. "We kind of like to dress up, and obviously our canines like to dress up as well."

They didn't have a Fourth of July parade this year, but in years past that was a big event that drew floats and as many as 100 decorated bicycles. Jolene Weir, who has lived in Waterford 15 years, recalls one Fourth of July parade featuring a "lawn chair brigade" of men who did a synchronized marching routine with lawn chairs.

"In one routine, they would walk around the chair, stop, sit down and drink a beer," Weir said. "It was all synchronized. They practiced."

Another year, there was the "weed whacker brigade," in which participants twirled the cutting tools like batons.

Focus on the commons

Waterford Commons, with its pool, two tennis courts, bathhouse and two-story clubhouse, has been the focus of many neighborhood gatherings. The house, built in 1987, was formerly a private residence owned by the Coons family, whose farm provided the acreage upon which Waterford was developed.

The commons property is owned by Ball Aquatics LLC, a company affiliated with Ball Homes, which has offered to sell the house and 3.7 acres to the homeowners association. The property is assessed at $522,300, according to the Fayette County Property Valuation Administrator's Web site. In recent weeks, the association has had an attorney look into the matter to determine a purchase price.

"So we're doing the due diligence to make sure that we have all the facts, all the financial statements and all the other stuff that we need," said Moeller, the homeowners association president. (He recently sold his home and plans to move to Louisville, where his wife has a new job.)

One unanticipated issue that arose during the due diligence was the discovery that there are two chartered neighborhood associations for Waterford. "Waterford 1" was organized for the original 125 homes, but it is not active. "Waterford 2," which is the association that Moeller heads, is the active one that has represented the neighborhood "as a unified entity for as long as any of us can remember," Moeller wrote on the association's Web site.

There is talk of merging the two associations into one. That's an important issue as the homeowners association discusses how to proceed so that the entire neighborhood has a stake in the proposed commons purchase.

Meanwhile, residents expressed interest in seeing the clubhouse property continue as focal point for Waterford.

"In my opinion, the commons property is one of the more important things we have here, because it is the heart of the neighborhood. Our activities revolve around this place," Wright said.

She noted that if the commons property is not purchased, there's a possibility the clubhouse might be razed for some other kind of development. The property is currently zoned R3 for low-density apartments.

Morris, whose house was the 10th built in Waterford, also hopes the commons property can be purchased for the good of the community.

"It's a vital part of this neighborhood," he said. "I'd hate to give up 3.5 acres of ground in the middle of any community for some kind of different development."