The 98-year-old Heideloff mansion was officially deemed eligible to become a historic landmark per the city’s ordinance on Thursday night.
But that’s not the end of the process.
The city’s planning commission must now decide whether the property at 13474 Edgewater Drive should get the designation as Lakewood’s fourth-ever historic landmark.
That meeting is slated for next month.
It doesn’t appear as if it will be an easy decision.
At odds is historic preservation versus private property rights.
The neighbors of the property — not the property owners — submitted the paperwork to make the mansion a historic landmark.
The property owners, Michael and Stacey Semaan, then proposed to demolish the home.
Dozens attended the city’s planning commission meeting on Thursday night to weigh in.
Jeff Weber, a neighbor who presented the historic designation plans, pointed to the architectural and historic significant value of the home — as well as the dwindling number of remaining waterfront mansions.
“This ordinance (was created) to save some of these structures,” he said. “I am here to plead that this house is worthy of the designation, and I will come back and explain why it needs to be done.”
The Semaans said that if the home receives the designation, they would likely sell the home, and believe that the property would lose value.
The Semaans argued that Weber wanted to buy the home, noting an offer he made to them, which they turned down.
A proposal for an extensive renovation to the property was approved by the city last year. Plans to build a second home on a second parcel, near the lake, were also recently approved by the city.
However, Stacey Semaan said there was “resistance” from the neighbors and noted that there are several issues with the house, including a damaged foundation and asbestos in the basement.
“It’s been a nightmare from minute one,” she said. “To get this house back up, it would cost quite a bit of money.”
Instead, the Semaans are now proposing to demolish the home and build another one on the property.
The couple — along with their architect Mark Reinhold — presented those preliminary plans to the city’s architectural board of review earlier in the day on Thursday.
“We are either going to get the permit to (demolish the house), or sell it and be gone,” said Michael Semaan.
“If we get that designation, it would ruin the value (of the property).”
In the purchase agreement, the Semaans said that they wouldn’t buy the home if it were going to be designated a historic site.
“The Semaans really want to build their dream house by the lake,” Reinhold said. “They don’t want invest $2 million and have it under a bushel. They want people drive down the road and see their hard work.”
“The historical code wasn’t written to be a bully-pulpit.”
Under the city’s ordinance, the commission must host two hearings to determine whether the property — built by a prominent Cleveland industrialist Wilfred Sly — is eligible for the designation.
The designation means that demolishing the 98-year-old home would be next to impossible.
Weber, and another neighbor Mary Breiner, submitted a 20-page application, replete with photos and a historical narrative of the property — one of the largest residential properties in the city.
Michael and Stacey Semaan bought the home for $750,000 in June 2011, according to county property records.
The previous owners of the four-bedroom, 4.5-bath home — with a soaring foyer, grand staircase, a formal dining room overlooking a reflection pond, cherry floors and a carriage house — moved out after 30 years of ownership.
The 2.6-acre property was once eyed for a 14-home development, but those plans were scrapped in March 2011.
Turns out, neighbors weren’t thrilled with that idea either.
“You have to ask yourselves, ‘if this house doesn’t meet the historical designation, then which ones would?’” said Paul Irwin, a neighbor who lives nearby on Lake Avenue.
“For the Semaans, I can imagine this has been a pretty painful experience. Maybe there’s a solution that already exists, that can bring the parties together that would be a win-win for everybody.”
Board member Hannah Belsito she’s concerned with what could be perceived as a “reactive designation.”
“Is this (proposal) being used as a threat, a shield to protect the building?” asked chairman Mark Stockman. “Is (demolition) being used a sword?”
He also noted that “95 percent” of Lakewood buildings could be deemed historic under the city’s ordinance.
“If this is the first home that we use to designate, this one wouldn’t be the one that comes to the top of my mind,” Stockman added.
The city’s architectural board of review is set to meet next Thursday to hear the demolition proposal.