CARLISLE TWP. — Since it was drained more than two years ago, the former Brentwood Lake has become a swampy marshland that has residents of the Brentwood development complaining.
“It’s a varmint-infested weed patch,” resident Richard Bokanyi, a retired veterinarian, said Tuesday.
Karen Johnson, who also lives in the development, said the former lake is now choked with noxious and invasive weeds including Canadian thistle and overrun with rats, mice, snakes, raccoons and other animals, which have been making their way into yards and homes of those living nearby.
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Johnson said the mosquitoes have become so bad that in the spring she couldn’t go outside without getting bitten several times. She said only this summer’s drought prevented the mosquito problem from getting worse because the former lake bed is now pockmarked with areas where standing water remains for lengthy periods of time.
Bokanyi said he fears someone will contract the West Nile virus from a mosquito bite.
In the past month, Johnson said, the pollen has become so bad that it’s difficult to breathe outside.
But nothing has been done to fix the problems and Johnson and many of her neighbors are fed up.
They brought the issue to the Carlisle Township trustees on Monday and plan to explain the problem to the Lorain County commissioners today.
“The weeds and the pollen are what prompted this thing,” Johnson said. “I just had enough.”
Exactly whose problem the former lake is remains the subject of some dispute.
The development and the lake were built by Spitzer Management and one of its divisions, Spitzer Hardware and Supply, is considered to be the owner of the land. But Spitzer has long contested whether it actually owns the lake and lake bed. The company has said the Brentwood Lake Homeowners Association should actually be considered the owner.
Cathy Schuster, director of real estate for Spitzer Management, said she only learned about the issue Monday after a co-worker spotted a Facebook post about residents planning to attend the township trustees meeting. She said Brentwood homeowners haven’t contacted the company to voice their concerns.
“I would think if there were problems down there and they wanted to solve them their first call would have been to us,” she said.
Both Bokanyi and Johnson acknowledged that they haven’t contacted Spitzer about the problems, but Johnson said that’s because they didn’t expect to get anywhere. Previous efforts to get Spitzer to fix problems at the lake never led to solutions, she said.
“When something doesn’t work, you don’t keep doing it,” Johnson said.
Schuster, however, argued that the company has always been approachable and tried to work with residents.
The problems at the lake came to light more than a decade ago when the Ohio Department of Natural Resources told Spitzer to fix the leaking lake in 1999, but that never happened and the water level began to drop, leaving dead fish. Spitzer did an engineering study and proposed a plan that would see homeowners kick in around $100 per year to cover the cost of paying for the repairs with a state loan.
But that deal never came together and in 2009, the state ordered Spitzer to breech the dam because of fears it would fail and flood areas downstream. Spitzer, along with the county and township finally agreed to a compromise that saw the dam breeched in February 2010.
Schuster said the homeowners were well aware that the plan called for the land to return to its natural state.
But Bokanyi said the old lake bed isn’t what it was before it was dammed in the 1950s.
“The natural state is it’s flat ground,” he said. “This was a potato farm.”
Carlisle Township Trustee Berry Taylor said he’s not exactly certain what the township and the county can do. He said the former lake bed is private property, and given the mucky nature of the land it would be virtually impossible to mow.
But county Commissioner Tom Williams said he believes the county and trustees have an obligation to do something to help the residents. He said the county can push for grants to fix the problems at the lake or even rebuild the dam.
“There are different solutions we can work on, we just have to get on the same page,” he said.
Williams, a Republican, said he invited the residents to today’s meeting to discuss the issue with his fellow commissioners, Ted Kalo and Lori Kokoski, who are both Democrats seeking re-election this year.
He said he was disappointed to learn that Kalo and Kokoski had planned to hold an abbreviated meeting today so they could attend a meeting with Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who will be in the county today.
Kalo and Kokoski both said they were unaware that Williams had invited the Brentwood residents to the meeting. They said their agenda was light and they planned to either shorten the meeting or come back after the event with Schultz and finish their business.
Both said after learning that Williams had invited the residents they changed that plan, although they said they are unfamiliar with the current problems at Brentwood and Williams hasn’t briefed them.
“He doesn’t give us a heads up on what’s happening,” Kalo said. “I don’t know this issue.”
Both Johnson and Williams said the timing of the renewed battle over the lake isn’t political.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.