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Heideloff Property Denied ‘Historic Landmark’ Status

At odds were private property rights versus historic preservation. After hours of discussion, the city’s planning commission splits vote down the middle, effectively tossing out the application for historic designation.

It took nearly three hours, almost 20 speakers and dozens of impassioned speeches, but the Lakewood Planning Commission finally voted — in a split decision — that the Heideloff property should not be designated a historic property.

The home at 13474 Edgewater Drive is expected to be demolished to make way for a new $2 million lakefront home.

Members of the planning commission deliberated for about 45 minutes on Thursday, and with a new member encouraged to abstain, the vote ended with a 3-3 decision.

That effectively denied the motion to make the property “historic” under city ordinance.

At the center of the debate was the issue of private property rights versus historic preservation.

The neighbors, not the property owners, submitted the paperwork to make the mansion a historic landmark.

Mary Breiner, the applicant for the designation and resident of nearby Homewood Avenue, said she will likely appeal the commission’s decision and has 10 days to do so. 

“In my mind, we have already said that this property is eligible be designated a historic property,” said commission member Robert Greytak, who voted in favor of the designation. “In my mind, (the code) goes from eligibility to designation.”

“I think it’s very clear that the designation is to prevent the demolition,” responded chairman Mark Stockman, who voted against the measure along with Mary Cierebiej and Tamara Karel.

“Why this house?” Stockman asked Breiner. 

“The people who purchased this home have indicated that they are going to tear it down,” Breiner said, sharing several historical highlights of the property. “That would be a great loss.”

The historic landmark ordinance is written as a two-step process: First the planning commission must decide whether a property is eligible for the designation — which it did in December.

On Thursday, several people spoke out, on both sides of the issue.

At times the debate was intense. 

A turning point came about halfway through the meeting, when Mayor Michael Summers, a neighbor of the Heideloff property, took to the podium to oppose the designation.

As a Ward 3 city councilman, Summers was one of the framers of the historic designation ordinance several years ago.

“I never in my wildest imagination would have thought that we would have a group of homeowners using this a tool against the wishes of (another) homeowner in Lakewood,” he said. “This ordinance was designed to protect the public infrastructure that we enjoy as a public arena. The notion of personal property rights and their infringement frankly was not a part of the discussion — I wish it had been.”

“We’re talking about property rights. We take that seriously.”

Peter Szeman, the attorney representing the Semaan family, made a plea for the commission to reject the application, citing the “financial hardships” the Semaans would incur based on a designation. 

“It was good to hear someone make the comment that no one is against the Semaans,” he said. “But if you’re the Semaans, that’s not the impression you’re getting from this community.”

Szeman said the Semaans bought the house for $750,000 and learned that it’d cost an additional $600,000 to restore it.

“They bought the property because they fell in love with the property — it’s 2.5 acres and it goes up to the lake — it’s fantastic,” he said. “But not the house… It’s too late to try to salvage in an economically feasible way.”

“This house is an echo of what you may have once had (in this neighborhood),” he added. 

Michael Semaan said that had the home been designated historic, he would have “split the lots into several subdivisions” and left the city.

“We never wanted this property designated,” he said, adding that the there was an addendum in the purchase agreement noting that point.

After the meeting, Michael Semaan thanked the commission.

The approval would have made the Heideloff property — built by a prominent Cleveland industrialist Wilfred Sly nearly 100 years ago — the city’s first residential “historic landmark” in Lakewood under the city’s ordinance. 

But this isn’t likely the end of the issue.

The neighbors plan to appeal the planning commission’s decision, by resubmitting a reapplication.

ian king February 21, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Hi Mike, No one is against the use of designating a worthwhile historical building a landmark. But just because Lakewood has lost/destroyed/demolished many of its historical buildings, does not justify granting such a lackluster and truly unimportant historically speaking house as the Heideloff is landmark status today. What is the heritage/history/importance of this house to the citizens of Lakewood? What is the heritage/history/importance of the Heideloff house to NE Ohio? And, more importantly, this case is really about whether a small group of wealthy neighbors can abuse/influence a local government's planning commission in order to control/determine the use and destiny of another neighborhor's own personal property = is this not so apparently government being used not for the common good but being abused for the desires/benefits of a wealthy/elite few? I agree with you that it is a shame Lakewood has lost a lot of its buildings that would today truly be worthy of landmark status. But this common, regionally ordinary house - yes house, it is not a mansion pleeease! - should not be misrepresented as being so unique and rare/special to Lakewood's history. It just isn't! This entire process has clearly been about today's property values and future neighborhood development than concern over granting Lakewood historical landmark status. The Mayor was spot on in blocking this, and I hope will be the planning commission. It is all a sad joke for the citizens of Lakewood.
Embarrassed Neighbor March 03, 2013 at 09:52 PM
This whole situation is completely and utterly bizarre. I've never in my life come across a group of neighbors wanting to fight against their fellow neighbor's property. Lakewood is undoubtably a historic community, and the qualities of most of the homes residing in lakewood can be considered "historical" and in need of "preservation" .... Why pick on this house in particular? Clearly, when this home was sitting vacant for years, doing nothing but taking up space and slowly eroding away, nobody took interest in attempting to repair the house or submit an application to turn this home into a historical landmark.. But when someone becomes interested in this property because they see potential in developing this old vacant house into something beautiful, all of a sudden an uprising stirs? Where were you people when this home was rotting away? I have attended many of these meetings and have seen these neighbors go against the semaans plan to develop this unused & unwanted property into something beautiful, suited for the family and admired by passerby. I am disgusted with the behavior of these neighbors, as they are putting a bad name on for Lakewood and making us seem as if we are an unwelcoming and malicious place prone to accepting change and modern development. I was more than thrilled to have heard that this worn down house was actually being adopted into the possession of a new family.
Embarrassed Neighbor March 03, 2013 at 09:53 PM
This property is nothing close to be labeled as a mansion, as the interior is nearly a disaster with the exception of a few newly repaired areas, but in all this home possesses extreme physical damage almost beyond repair. I hope Lakewood residents, realize that this is NOT acceptable behavior should not be tolerated by city council or the rest of our community. this obserd and cruel abuse of such a law that was created to protect homeowners and their property, was not intended to be used against those wanting to start fresh and expand our city. I see absolutely nothing wrong with the semaan's proposal, and I send my heart out to them for having to go through this amount of trouble. I wish you and your family nothing but the best and I hope all goes your way, and others will realize that history is meant for the past, and we need to accept that you can't hold on to the past in a place where our only hope is to continue to move forward. Best of luck to the semaan family!
ian king March 03, 2013 at 10:28 PM
THANKS so much Neighbor for comments that so many of us Lakewoodites feel. It is absurb that this process has gotten as far as it has. I guess being President of the Historical Society gives some more insider power access and treatment than us mere Lakewood tax paying mortals. Having lived in Philadelphia, in the Society Hill area, there were at times a very contemporary townhouse next to an 18th century Trinity home. And guess what, they were actually enhancing each other - the old and the new existing side by side = kinda like life! Lakewood needs to embrace its new citizens who are willing to first move here and then secondly spend a ton of money to make this their home. These neighbors are an shameless and greedy and self-centered and need to be called on their arrogance and abuse of the historic landmade status. What a shame this small group is giving Lakewood such a bad name/and reputation across the region!
ian king March 03, 2013 at 10:28 PM
THANKS so much Neighbor for comments that so many of us Lakewoodites feel. It is absurb that this process has gotten as far as it has. I guess being President of the Historical Society gives some more insider power access and treatment than us mere Lakewood tax paying mortals. Having lived in Philadelphia, in the Society Hill area, there were at times a very contemporary townhouse next to an 18th century Trinity home. And guess what, they were actually enhancing each other - the old and the new existing side by side = kinda like life! Lakewood needs to embrace its new citizens who are willing to first move here and then secondly spend a ton of money to make this their home. These neighbors are an shameless and greedy and self-centered and need to be called on their arrogance and abuse of the historic landmade status. What a shame this small group is giving Lakewood such a bad name/and reputation across the region!

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