“Zombie” properties spread to exclusive Spaulding Lake

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) — When you think of “zombie properties”, large mansions with huge lawns probably don’t come to mind, but that is exactly what is happening in Clarence, where two large homes have sat empty–on the same street.

At 10,000 sq. ft., they could be the biggest single family zombie homes you will ever see, in one of the most exclusive subdivisions in Western York—Spaulding Lake—but the good news is, one is now occupied, and the other could soon be getting some much needed attention.

One, with a “Shame on Bank of America” sign planted in the front yard, was foreclosed about 8 years ago, shortly after the head of the household died, and the mother just couldn’t keep up.

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So the family left, leaving an easy target for vandals, according to Clarence Town Supervisor David Hartzell.

“Since the kids broke in the back, they basically trashed the inside, and there is spray paint in there and mattresses on there, and the house is just a mess inside.”

Hartzell knew the previous owners, who just left the 5 bedroom, 5 bath mansion to Bank of America, rather than fight the foreclosure.

“If Bank of America can find a buyer, then somebody will put some up and basically go in and rehab the inside–change all the damage that has been done.”

State Assemblyman Michael Kearns of Buffalo has taken aim at many of the banks because they foreclose on property but fail to take the foreclosure all the way to its conclusion in court, so the deed remains in the name of the former owner.

But Kearns said, Bank of America is coming around, with the zombie in Spaulding Lake.

“Once the foreclosure is complete, and there is a Judgment of Foreclosure, they have to work with us to get these properties back into people’s hands.”

But there is another 10,000 sq. ft. mansion on the same street that has also been abandoned. It is a home, as News 4 reported last year, that was foreclosed for back taxes. But Erie County Director of Real Property Tax Services Joseph Maciejewski said, the back taxes have been paid, and new owners have moved in.

“The attorney came into my office with certified funds in the amount of $140,800, which was the single largest payment of back taxes on a residential property in the 19 years I have been with the county.”

That seems to be the stark difference between a zombie home due to back taxes, and a foreclosure by a bank: When the government takes control, officials can auction the property off, maintain it, satisfy the tax deficit, and sell it to new owners.

A bank foreclosure can last for years, and the outcome can sometimes be a demolition, which is what they are trying to avoid that in Spaulding Lake.

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