HONESDALE – Numerous property owners along Bunnell's Pond are enraged that an investment firm has plans to permanently drain the centuries-old body of water.
“This has broken my … heart,” said Fred Baldwin, who owns waterfront property along Johnson Lane with his wife, Denise Wiedermann.
Honesdale-based Rogue Investments LLC, which owns the pond that dates back to the mid-1800s, plans to start a permanent drawdown this summer, according to owner Martin Michalik.
He said he has no other option since the pond's dam is a hazard and liability.
The 46.3-acre pond has a capacity of 57,000 gallons.
Baldwin and Wiedermann have owned their pond-side home for about 15 years. Now they have put it on the market due in large part to the potential drawdown.
“I'm so sick to death over this,” Baldwin said. “This is where we were doing to die and now I can't stand to look at it.”
Baldwin said about five years ago he and his wife were offered $450,000 cash for their property.
“We turned it down because my wife didn't want to move. It's beautiful here. It's a sanctuary,” he said, noting that deceased residents have had their ashes spread in the pond.
Now, due to the potential draining, the couple can't get a real estate agent to show the property listed at $274,000, Baldwin said.
Michalik has said he will parcel out and develop the dry land, though he did not have a definitive timeline for the draining and development.
Property owners expressed skepticism regarding the plan, pointing out the drained land would be protected wetlands.
Johnson Lane resident Joe Venditti said it would be “insane” for Michalik to develop what would be wetland.
“That's not going to happen,” Venditti said.
Lauren Michko, who lives near the dam off Cliff Street, said she and her husband are considering selling their property.
“Our property value is going to tank big time,” she said.
She noted her children also were upset because they use the pond for fishing and canoeing.
“It's really sad and we're very upset about it,” Michko said.
In addition to the fish, including bass and pickerel, other pond habitant includes wood ducks, mallards, snapping turtles and eagles.
Those will all be gone with the draining of the pond, Baldwin said.
“It's just unbelievable, to do away with such a nice area,” Venditti said.
Venditti said Michalik had initially told residents he would be willing to turn over the pond if they established an association that would repair the dam and maintain the pond.
But suddenly Michalik stopped communicating with them, Venditti said.
Colleen Connolly, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said that as of Tuesday the department had no record of Rogue Investments filing for a drawdown permit, though it still had time to do so for work to begin by summer.
DEP members have visited the site and are continuing to monitor the situation, Connolly said.
Michalik could not be reached Wednesday afternoon.