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Burned mansion to be razed

By: Laura O’Brien Loomis News Correspondent
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A burned-out mansion in Poppy Ridge Estates has a new owner – and he plans to demolish it. Robert Barakat purchased the shell of a two-story, 7,000-square-foot home located at 5335 Poppy Ridge Road for $120,000, according to Dimitry Rocklin, legal representative for the previous owner Leonid Gaber. Robert Barakat owns two other undeveloped parcels in the complex and his brother John Barakat’s 8,000-square-foot home neighbors the Gaber’s. The development is located near the intersection of Rocklin and Barton Roads. In an interview, John Barakat said he just found out that his brother bought the property last week. “It was a surprise to all of us,” Barakat said. “I don’t care whoever takes it as long as he cleans it because it’s an environmental hazard and a nuisance because it’s been going on so long.” He said his 14-year-old daughter has suffered asthma complications for the last six to seven months, which he attributes to molds and toxins from the decaying home. The Garber home suffered a major fire in March 2011 and the cause of the fire was deemed arson, although no arrests were ever made. An insurance investigation ensued and in September the insurance company settled with the Garbers. In October 2011, the Town of Loomis deemed the site a public nuisance because no attempts had been made to rehabilitate the home and according to a town staff report the property contained debris “which had been kept on the property for an unreasonable period and are visible from the street or roadway in violation of town code.” The report also called the burned home an “attractive nuisance to children.” Rocklin represented Gaber in a town administrative hearing on Nov. 7. Town Manager Rick Angelocci ruled that Gaber needed to sell, refurbish or demolish the house by Jan. 31 and notify the town of his plans by Jan. 1. The decision said, “in fairness and justice there is no way other than demolition reasonably to correct such nuisance.” The estimated demolition cost was $15,000 to $20,000 that would be paid for by Loomis and added as a lien on the house. Gaber appealed the decision. Speaking at the Dec. 13, council meeting against the blight were John Barakat, Bill Loscotoff, a homeowner living on Barton Road, and the pastor of Sierra Christian Church, on Rocklin Road. The council voted 3-2 to postpone the appeal until their January meeting and conduct a site visit on Jan. 5, with a hearing slated for the Jan. 10. That hearing was cancelled when it was learned the property had a new owner who planned to tear it down. The Gaber house sits 25 feet from John Barakat’s property. Gaber and John Barakat have the only two developed parcels in the complex. John Barakat owns a second parcel of undeveloped land. Poppy Ridge homeowner’s association president Loscotoff owns the other two parcels in the seven-parcel complex. According to Rocklin, Gaber had faced foreclosure on the home, but the purchase by Robert Barakat allowed for a short sale. Rocklin said Gaber has invested about $1.4 million total at the site. Gaber and his wife Mila Gaber live in San Leandro. “I think the neighbors very effectively used town officials to squeeze out a rightful owner of this place from that lot,” he said. At the Jan. 10 Town Council meeting, Angelocci said Gaber withdrew the appeal because of the sale of the property. According to the hearing decision, any new owner of the home needs to comply with the terms of the ruling. John Barakat said his brother is seeking a demolition permit from the town.