November 24, 2014


Home values drying up along with lake at Brentwood Lake development

CARLISLE TWP. — The housing market is bouncing back, but residents of the nearly 200 homes in the Brentwood Lake subdivision say they face a special challenge.

The big draw to their properties was having the lake, which is now a swamp after authorities breached a dam in early 2010.

“It was neat — you could go canoeing in your backyard,” said Alison Bessey, whose home at 42 Lakeview Drive is one of four homes for sale in the area.

Bessey, married with two young children, said the growing family would be looking for a new home no matter what, but the loss of the lake is a blow.

Another neighbor, Deanna Witbeck, is looking to move to Texas after 38 years in her ranch at 40 Lakeview Drive.

“It used to be the elite place to live,” in the Midview school district, Witbeck said.

Witbeck’s Realtor, Lisa Eyring, said things are looking up in the housing market, but the loss of Brentwood Lake definitely affected the neighborhood.

“That was the focal point of the development — the lake,” Eyring said. “It’s a shame they let that go.”

Lorain County Auditor Craig Snodgrass said property values set by the auditor went down 9.6 percent in the most recent re-evaluation, compared to the countywide average of a 7.9 percent reduction. But some Brentwood residents argue the drop in valuation was far greater than 9.6 percent.

The auditor’s office focused on factors such as home size and did not take into account the loss of the lake, Snodgrass said.

“We’re reappraising property — we’re not appraising the lake,” Snodgrass said. In the end, a home’s value is “whatever a willing seller and willing buyer will agree on.”

One of the neighborhood leaders, Andy Teiberis, said the impact for the 33 homes in Brentwood that fronted the lake was much greater than the 9.6 percent property value reduction cited by Snodgrass.

“I requested a 20 percent reduction and got it,” he said.

Teiberis said he and his late wife used to sit out and enjoy the beauty of the neighborhood when there was still a lake.

After the dam was breached, they joked, “It was Hilton Head and the tide’s out.”

“Now the tide’s out 24 hours a day,” Teiberis said.

Teiberis and fellow neighborhood leaders Karen Johnson and Dr. Richard Bokanyi said in addition to concerns about the loss of value to their homes, there are other problems they face as a result of the lake being allowed to drain.

Johnson said she has difficulty breathing because of noxious weeds, and the mosquito problem is horrendous.

“It felt like fire in my lungs,” Johnson said. “And all day long there are mosquitoes — not just in the evening.”

Vermin even get into the homes, Johnson said.

She said her husband captured a field mouse under a plastic salad container — just in time to illustrate the problem for a two-hour presentation she made to the Lorain County commissioners.

During a visit from a reporter a few weeks ago, a muskrat scurried across a yard in broad daylight, disappearing into the vegetation. Deer also have taken advantage of the swamp and are eating peoples’ flowers and young vegetables, neighbors said.

Bokanyi, a retired veterinarian, sent registered letters to public officials asking them to resolve health issues involving mosquitoes, rats and other vermin.

His concern, he argued, was West Nile virus and rabies.

He got just one reply, from the Ohio Department of Health, which indicated that it would not get involved because the lake is private property.

The parcel containing the drained lake is owned by Spitzer Hardware and Supply Inc., according to Snodgrass.

Representatives of Spitzer, including attorney Anthony Giardini and property manager Cathy Schuster, did not return repeated calls for comment over a matter of weeks. Alan Spitzer, chairman and chief executive officer of Spitzer Management Inc., declined to speak to a reporter who visited his Elyria office.

While company officials were unavailable, Giardini argued in court documents that the lake is actually owned by the Brentwood Lake Village Homeowners’ Association through the legal claim of adverse possession because homeowners had been using the lake for decades.

Dueling lawsuits were resolved when parties agreed that Spitzer, Lorain County and Carlisle Township would share the cost of a controlled breach of the dam.

Residents said they worry the problem never will be addressed.

County Commissioner Lori Kokoski said the situation is regrettable, but “nobody wants the responsibility.”

County Commissioner Tom Williams said he approached the Lorain County Metro Parks for help and a possible takeover but was told that the lake was private property without public access.

Metro Parks Director James Ziemnik said the district would have to examine the suitability of the property for a Metro Park even if the property was deeded over and opened to the public. There would have to be sufficient parking and access to the public, he said.

“We’re charged with being responsible to every taxpayer,” Ziemnik said.

Kokoski said residents of Brentwood Lake may seek help like anyone else for storm water relief made possible through a new charge on property tax bills. But Bokanyi said he asked about whether money for storm water control could be allocated to Brentwood, but he did not receive much encouragement.

Bokanyi said building a new retention basin for storm water seems ridiculous, adding, “We had the best retention — the lake.”

“Somebody is going to have to get West Nile virus and die or get very, very sick, and the Health Department and storm water people will pay attention,” Bokanyi said.

Resident Sarah Overs said she would like public officials to mow the weeds in the lake bed — and charge the cost to Spitzer Hardware.

“If I would keep my yard like that lake, they’d write me up,” she said.

Overs said she had to redo two bathrooms in her home at 41 Lakeview after the lake was drained because of settling of the land, which affected the plumbing.

“This is a house I wanted from childhood,” Overs said. “The house of enchantment has turned into the house on Elm Street.”

Carlisle Township Trustee Berry Taylor said the township is concerned about the situation and will work on surveying residents for a possible solution this summer.

Taylor said the township will not do any cleanup of weeds because it only cuts grass in the front yards of residential properties.

Taylor suggested that the property owners on the lake consider agreeing to extend their property lines to the middle of the lake bed, giving them control over the property now taken over by weeds.

He said Bokanyi, the veterinarian, has made a very nice vegetable garden after reclaiming some of the land that used to be under water.

Ideally, the lake property should be mowed several times a summer, said Karl Schneider, natural resources coordinator for the Lorain County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“It’s a perfect breeding ground for snakes, rats and mice,” Schneider said.

He likes the idea of residents taking responsibility for the extra land that used to be the lake bed, although the first time it is mowed the work will be “horrendous.”

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or

  • TheDon Corleone

    Boo hoo for the rich people. Screw them.

    • Rae

      They aren’t rich
      And even if they were why does that matter..jealous much?

    • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

      You don’t have to cry for Spitzer, they hire people to do that for them…

  • Joe Smith

    Were the residents not offered to have this fixed and they would pay this back with small monthly payments? Is my memory correct?

    • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

      No, your memory is not correct. It was all talk and no offer as is typical…

  • ken m

    having grown up in grafton, brentwood lake was always a nice place,nice drive around the lake, was very well kept..and the homes where always very well kept..this affects not only the home owners but also the surrounding one wants to drive over a bridge and see this crap, looks could fish on the other side of the bridge, ice skate etc ….as mr bokanyi has said, someone will end up getting sick or die before someone wants to fix the sad for the spritzers with all there millions that they choose to just let this happen and lorain county for not stepping up…but I read not long ago wilkes villa may be upgraded or re built………………….

    • sueishere

      I know what you mean because my relatives live right next to BL. But honestly, when I drive over the bridge I don’t even pay attention anymore. I doubt many people do. It is a gully now…

  • Molly Mc

    I grew up in Brentwood and remember swimming in the lake. We paid dues to the homeowners association. How could they let this happen? So sad.

    • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

      It would have been really nice if Spitzer would have signed onto the struggling HOA(since they do still own a home here) when there was a push to save the lake rather than suing the HOA declaring that they owned the property through a made up contortion of “law” called reverse adverse possession. As the State Attorney General’s put it in their brief for the lawsuit: “In Ohio, a landowner of record, such as Spitzer, may not divest itself of its property and force another to become owner of that property under the doctrine of adverse possession. Spitzer’s attempt to forfeit its property and its attendant responsibilities, in such a calculated manner, is an aberration to property law and to the rights of others. It must not be countenanced by this court.” Get the picture?? Its time that everyone knows what went on here. The people here are working class or retired and, in my opinion, greatly taken advantage of because they, unlike Spitzer, do not have an attorney on staff.

  • Guest

    The whole thing’s a shame
    We know who’s to blame
    Can’t mention their name
    Because of their fame
    But the result is the same
    And boy is it lame.

    • Bill Willis

      Hit the nail on the head, but reading others comments on here who so blindly, like sheep put the load on the working class instead of where it belongs. On the snake who at the first sign of problems with the dam tries to shovel the mess on the homeowners.

    • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

      That is why we have come to refer to the owner as “He Who Shall Not Be Named”.

    • sueishere

      Pretty good!

  • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

    Let’s see–how can anyone pony up money when the insurer for the property warned residents to not take ownership of the property. They would not write a policy on it without riders for ground and air pollution. Do you recall the gas/oil spills that went into that lake? This is a much bigger problem than it appears.

  • sueishere

    If they want the Carlisle taxpayers to pay for it, then it needs to be open to Carlisle residents too.

    • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

      We asked for a way to have a trust or something own the property and have residents assessed(within reason)–but the idea was not even entertained.

  • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

    An important aspect of the Brentwood Lakebed issue is not only that there are suspected toxins in the soils that are apparently trying to be pushed on to those next to the lakebed property, but that the lakebed is actually suspected as being a wetland. There was a document created in Dec 2011 called the Black River Watershed Action Plan which stated that Brentwood Lakebed “should be targeted as an important restoration area. That it sits on hydric soils(wetland) and that a properly managed wetland complex in this area would serve as a vital nutrient and storm water mitigation function for the Jackson-East Branch sub-watershed…” I spoke to Dan Bogoevski of EPA Div of Surface Water who said that Brentwood Lakebed is a wetland that is filled with the wrong plants. Invasive species have been allowed to take hold. He said that grading the property to cut a central channel for the water was a useless task as it is a piece of property trying to turn itself in to the wetland that it actually is. It still floods under heavy rains. It handles the stormwater runoff from almost 5 sq miles upstream. Wetland mitigation is an expensive ordeal and the wetland was originally created by the company that graded to soil to form the lakebed in the 50′s–Spitzer Hardware. In a 1950 letter from the Dept of the Interior to Spitzer, they warned that “one of the most common and disasterous mistakes in the building of a small pond or lake is to have too much land area draining into the lake. A large drainage area greatly increases the cost of the spillway structure, the rate of sedimentation and the cost of maintaining the pond in good condition.” Spitzer never revealed this to homebuyers. They kept ownership and control of the lake property. They should be the one to take responsibility to Make It Right. They lived here for many years and wanted to maintain control of the lake. Now they moved away and this is what they left behind. Also, prior to declaring they do not own the property, in 1999 the lake property was actually part of the same parcel that contained a home that Spitzer Hardware owned at 14 Waterfall Drive. They surveyed out the home in Dec 1999 and sold the home, removing the salable value from the lake parcel prior to claiming they don’t own the lake property. In fact they hold the mortgage on the 14 Waterfall property. And the local government allows this to happen!!! IMHO, there is no mysterious ownership issue here — just politics.

  • DCAinSLC

    Residents need to up their game with civic protests. Picketing dealerships, a social media campaign, appearances at sponsored charity events, maybe an an inflatable rat that make appearances at “Spitzer Cares” events. They should track every application for permits and then use the public comment period to make their case. Writing letters to officials will not do the trick. It requires much more of a grassroots campaign.

  • M Chaney

    The Spitzer family now have the distinction of being embroiled in two very high-profile cases that are affecting life, and quality of life in Lorain County. The Spitzer Plaza Building at 301 Broadway in Lorain is on the front page of today’s Lorain Journal. This story of the lake at Brentwood is an echo of the situation in Lorain…a wealthy family attempting to minimize their financial responsibility in real estate dealings that are no longer viable for them. It is too bad that the leader of the Spitzer family does not seem concerned with the tarnished legacy and reputation that this will leave behind for his family & himself. To any & all concerned citizens of Lorain County…next time you are in the market for a new vehicle, make sure you do NOT give your business to any of the Spitzer Group AutoWorld Dealers. In the coming months, our family & friends will purchase several new vehicles in Lorain County–but we will not give our business to the Spitzer Group!