October 25, 2014

Elyria
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Plan to clean up Brentwood Lake swamp gets bogged down

ELYRIA — A proposal to clean the swamp at the former Brentwood Lake bogged down Wednesday over questions of cost and property ownership.

A section of what was formerly the lake in Brentwood Lake is overgrown earlier this year.

A section of what was formerly the lake in Brentwood Lake is overgrown earlier this year.

“We have to find a solution to this problem,” Berry Taylor, a Carlisle Township trustee, told about 30 residents who live around the swamp at a meeting at the Lorain County Administration Building. “We want to get on to what can we do to make it a better place in the future.”

The dam that created the man-made lake in Carlisle Township was removed in 2010, draining the lake per order of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources because of flooding concerns. The neighborhood around it includes Edgewood Drive, Lakewood Drive and state Route 57.

Problems dated back to 1999 when developer Alan Spitzer — the developer whose family built the 200-home subdivision approximately 60 years ago — was ordered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to fix the leaking lake. He never did, resulting in fish kills, and its drainage has turned the lake bed into a swamp infested with mosquitoes, mice, raccoons and rats.

“The mosquitoes will eat you alive,” said Richard Bokanyi, of 6 Grover Court, before the one-hour meeting. “It’s really sad.”

Bokanyi, a retired veterinarian, told Taylor that rodents may bite someone, infecting him with rabies, and mosquito infections could spread West Nile virus, an occasionally fatal illness that increased 533 percent in Ohio between 2011 and 2012.

“We’re dealing with a real serious problem,” he said. “It’s not just homeowners. It’s going to be a community problem (for) Carlisle Township and Grafton.”

Taylor proposed extending surrounding owners’ property lines into the middle of the former lake bed. “This would allow you to have control of that property and to maintain it however you want,” he said.

However, many residents were reluctant to support the proposal and said they want Spitzer to pay for the cleanup. Residents say he owns the property while Spitzer says the now-defunct Brentwood Homeowners Association owns it. The association unsuccessfully sued Spitzer, also under fire by Lorain officials for failing to maintain the former Spitzer Plaza hotel in Lorain.

Sarah Ann Overs of 41 Lakeview Drive told county officials at the meeting that while she doesn’t share it, the perception of many residents is that county officials have shown favoritism to Spitzer. The perception is from Spitzer being represented by attorney Anthony Giardini, who is also Lorain County Democratic Party chairman, in the heavily Democratic county. Giardini, who also represents the Lorain Board of Education, didn’t return a call Wednesday night.

Residents’ frustrations with Spitzer partially stem from warnings to his family about building the lake that dated back to the Truman administration.

“It might be well to point out that one of the common and disastrous mistakes in the building of a small pond and lake is to have too much land area dredging 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,” Earl Sanderson, a U.S. Department of Interior hydrologist, wrote John Spitzer in 1950. “If you have had no experience in the construction of ponds, it is suggested that you consult someone experienced in the field of work.”

The federal government now recommends against restoring the dam. Overs read a Monday email from Dan Bogoevski, an environmental specialist with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency Division of Surface Water, recommending stream and wetland restoration.

Overs clashed with Taylor after she recommended the township use eminent domain to take over the property and questioned why Spitzer would need to agree to a homeowner takeover if he doesn’t own the property.

“You want everybody else to take care of your problem,” Taylor said.

“I want you to do your job,” Overs said.

Gerald Innes, an assistant county prosecutor, expressed frustration with residents over disputing ownership with Spitzer since 2006. He warned them that suing Spitzer again would lead to countersuits, costing between $20,000 and $30,000 for each homeowner.

“You wants us to start something, we’ll start it, but get out your pocketbook,” he said. “And then you don’t know if you’re going to win.”

While many residents said Spitzer should pay cleanup costs, Rob Forrer, of 169 Brentview Drive, disagreed. He suggested residents form a new homeowners association and limited liability company and share costs.

“Spitzer’s interest is long gone. He doesn’t care,” Forrer said. “We can’t afford to sue him.”

Taylor asked residents to consider the extended property lines proposal and said another meeting will be in August after costs were estimated.

“Think of solutions instead of negativity,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.


  • greenlady0

    I would like to clarify my comment about eminent domain I mentioned it in response to a comment over Mr. Innes’s 2 year struggle to obtain easement rights for turnarounds at the two dead ends that used to be a complete road, before the road and dam were removed in 2010. These dead end roads are still used by non-residents, emergency vehicles etc hence my question as to why eminent domain was not used for public access.I was in NO WAY referring to the lake/no lake situation.
    CORRECTIONS: Alan Spitzer is NOT the developer his father and uncles created the development under the name of Spitzer Hardware where it has been held.
    The HOA NEVER sued Spitzer,the HOA was named as a third party along with the township and county in the suit between ODNR and the dam owner.
    Also I would like to be clear that the “perception of residents” I was speaking about referred to people I encounter outside the subdivision and thought I said “the people I encounter outside of Brentwood’…I would appreciate if these clarifications and corrections are made in the newspaper version as well. Thank You. Sarah Ann Overs

  • guest

    I don’t know why people think this is Carlisle Townships problem. If we taxpayers were to pay to restore the lake, then it is open to us Carlisle residents too. Carlisle township is NOT responsible for maintaining the lake.

    • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

      You are right–it is the owner that is responsible for maintaining the lake or lakebed parcel. Why aren’t they???

  • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

    I share Mr. Innes frustration at the county/township not being able to defend its nuisance and drainage laws without the threat that Spitzer would sue the homeowners–over what we don’t know but it is apparent from the last lawsuit, they would probably make up something. When Spitzer was brought to court by ODNR in 2009, it was Spitzer who countersued both the HOA and county/township, claiming that the HOA owned the lake–knowing full well that Spitzer owned it because in Dec 1999, there was a house at 14 Waterfall Dr that was part of the lakebed parcel and had been since the lake was created by Spitzer Hardware in the 1950′s. Spitzer sold that house in 1999 and the buyers insisted that the lake be removed from the house as they did not want to own it. ( In fact, Spitzer holds the home buyers mortgage on that house parcel.) The lot was split and that property transfer was signed by both Giardini and Alan Spitzer and therefore they both new full well that the lake parcel was owned by Spitzer when they sued the HOA claiming that the HOA owned that lakebed parcel–forcing the HOA to hire an attorney, spending thousands in defense. Mr. Innes concerns about the retaliatory nature of Spitzer’s attorney are understandable–I would guess that both the Lorain Hotel and Brentwood Lake have probably cost our county tens of thousands of tax dollars if not a lot more. And the inability to enforce the rules and laws that govern these properties because of threat of retailiation makes living in this county not much better than living in a third world country–except in this county it is a private citizen and his company and attorney who seem to call the shots. May God help Lorain County!

  • disqus_oQQsK6fKdq

    Not sure if anyone noticed at the Brentwood Meeting last night but the majority of homeowners at the meeting(owning homes abutting the nuisance swamp property) are senior citizens living on social security. One gentleman was on oxygen. Their homes have been devalued tens of thousands if not more–they live with the threat of disease carrying rodents and mosquitoes in their backyards and coming into their homes and the only solution that our township and county could come up with to abate the nuisance is to sell the property to them so that they can be responsible for the nuisance unwanted swamp property. Unbelievable! Lorain–get ready to buy that hotel so that you can resolve that nuisance, too.

  • FormerResident

    Allow the residents to drill for Oil or Gas in the former lake bed… when they “hit”, watch Sptizer, et al come groveling for his/their shares.