Neighbors' feud over flooding leads to mayor's son being charged

More trouble in Greenwich
Heather Chapin-Fowler
Aug 25, 2013


A Greenwich landlord is feuding with Mayor Lowell Etzler's son over a flooding problem which the landlord claims is destroying his investment.

Larry Risner, 5 Center St., recently purchased a home that was built in 1948 and told council at a meeting Tuesday that the backyard is completely useless after even the slightest rain because Michael Etzler's runoff is running into his yard from Etzler's 3 Center St. property. The run-off water is not only soaking Risner's backyard but also the crawlspace under the home, causing damage, he said.

"I've tried to work with him as a neighbor and a friend... He pretty much thumbed his nose up at me," Risner said during a regular council meeting Tuesday.

Risner said he approached Etzler starting earlier this summer about the water problem and several times offered to pay for installing about 30 feet of drain tile to run into a catch basin on Etzler's property by the street to re-route the run-off.

But after agreeing to help with the problem, Etzler backed out at the last minute on advice of the mayor, Risner said.

Lowell Etzler reportedly advised his son not to run anymore water into the catch basin because it may overwhelm his system and could cause flooding on his property, Risner told council.

The mayor had little to say during the lengthy presentation by Risner, who passed around photographs of the flooding to the council members, asking for a solution to the problem.

Zoning Inspector Cless Inmon considered buying the property before Risner bought it and immediately identified that the backyard was too low and needed major work, he said.

Inmon said he didn't buy the property because he would've had to bring in "four to five loads of dirt" to build up the backyard.

Officials told Risner his house has water damage because there was a water leak in the home years ago before Risner purchased the property. Specifically, Mayor Etzler told Risner that the water leaked for about a year before it was discovered.

The village engineer and administrator were questioned about the dispute during the meeting, however neither had any knowledge of it, they said.

"We didn't know about it," said village engineer Jason Popiel, who has since scheduled to inspect the property next week.

Village Administrator Virgil Giles told Risner he would've preferred to view the problem in person before making a comment about it.

Meanwhile, Risner, who referred to his family as a "cash cow" for the village based on its taxable contribution, told village officials he believes they have a legal obligation to repair the problem based on an ordinance he researched and provided at the meeting.

Councilman Thad Smith explained to Risner that the village has limited funds this year for special projects.

While a sewer separation project is in the works, an immediate solution doesn't appear feasible, officials indicated.

Whether or not it was a coincidence, after Michael Etzler declined Risner's request, he found himself in trouble for shooting his bow and arrow into his garage from his driveway as he has done for years.

He was charged for discharging a firearm following a complaint by Risner, according to police and Norwalk Municipal Court records.

"Risner was very excited in speech and advised the neighbor is standing on the street shooting a bow and arrow into his garage. Risner advised his daughter and grandson are right beside him in the next house and accidents can happen," the police report stated.

According to the report, "Risner advised he wants the subject charged. Risner further stated that the subject is the mayor's son and he does not wish for this situation to just disappear, he wants him charged."

The mayor never complained or questioned village prosecutor Steve Palmer, who made the decision to charge his son, Greenwich Police Chief Steve Dorsey said.

Etzler told police he was aware there were children in the area and as a result, stopped target practicing in his yard and moved his practicing to the garage, the report stated.

"(Etzler) did not know there was a village ordinance covering discharging arrows in the village limits," the report also stated.

The charge is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree and carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a fine of $250, according to Dorsey. Michael Etzler is scheduled to appear in court for the charge next week, court records stated.

Following Etzler's court summons, police were called to the Risner's residence for a parking violation, according to police records.

A village ordinance prohibits residents from parking on the tree lawn because the street is a truck route, Dorsey said.

The Risners have a gravel parking lot that runs next to the roadway which police recently warned them not to use anymore.

If the Risners continue to park on the tree lawn, they could be charged as well, Dorsey said.

Etzler's scheduled to appear in court next week, according to court records.

Etzler competes in contests with his bow and arrow. Since he is no longer allowed to practice on his property, he was given the option to use the village's shooting range, which is occasionally open to the public, Dorsey said.

Etzler seemed "shocked" when he received his summons on the charge that was reviewed by Palmer, said Dorsey. "(Michael Etzler) said, 'You guys have seen me do this,'" Dorsey said.

Dorsey said he told Etzler, "Yes, we have. But if we get a complaint, we have to enforce it."

The police department advertises the days when the range will be open to the public, Dorsey added.


swiss family

if Mr Risners property sits lower that his neighbors, and because of this, his yard is m flooded almost all the time, why doesn't he bring in and spread out more top soil , that would make his property higher, and thus, the rain from his higher grounds would drain off on to his neighbors??


I agree with swiss somewhat. But that's just going to cause more issues in the long run. Why not just agree to have put that tile in? It should of never gotten to this point.. on the other issue with shooting his bow off in town. He should of known that was a village ordinance. I'm a long time hunter and can hit my target all the time. But there is always the chance something can go wrong.


A bow and arrow is not a firearm. The charge is bogus or at least unenforceable because of vagueness.


A "firearm" for definition in a village ordinance is the expelling or propelling of a projectile. It can include a handgun, rifle, shotgun, bb gun, airsoft etc. Some villages can also then have a separate archery ordinances. So yes a bow and arrow CAN/MAY fall under a "firearm" ordinance if worded in the proper legal terms.


I would like to retract my previous statement. After looking at the ordinance it does include bows and arrows. I will find something else to complain about, thank you.


This is typical of a lot of poster on here, run your mouth without knowing what your talking about.


AlterEgo, give me some credit, at least I made a correction and it's not like we are giving affidavits here.


I give you credit. There are many things in village ordinances that people do not know exist. I was shocked at some, laughed at others. I have been on the zoning board of my village for sometime now and continue to find things that amaze me. Some are so outdated but have never been challenged there for not changed or removed.
nothing more here than a pi$$ing contest.


Does anyone find this as petty bullshit that can be handled without the LE and not to be taken seriously as village agenda?


Please recognize that yes to you it's petty and I can see your point but read the article and what I've written. My property is being flooded and I tried everything possible and always offering to pick up expense to correct it. What else can one do? I surely didn't want to be here arguing this point in the public arena. I could have simply accepted things as they are, look the other way, let those politically connected have their perks and their way but I chose to exercise my rights and follow the right path. Agree or disagree, this is my right and I assure you if you want exercise yours I will applaud you.Just as I respect your opinion here but agree to disagree.


I want to take a moment to address this article written and posted in the Norwalk Reflector today. The paper is head lined to give the impression that because I tried to correct a flooding issue with my property that somehow it was directly connected to Mayor Etzlers son being charged with discharging a weapon in the community...>FALSE< It had nothing to do with it. As the article explained I tried working with my neighbor Mike Etzler to alleviate a flooding problem to my property being caused by his gutters directly discharging toward my house. I offered to pick up the expense and do it any way he chose but nothing was good enough so I decided to go to council with it. IN THE MEANTIME...before the next council meeting, My daughter calls me one night to explain that Mike Etzler was standing in the middle of the street shooting his bow and arrows into his house? She is 8 1/2 months pregnant, has my 6 year old grandson living there and was scared. I said don't worry I will call police and get it stopped. I called Officer Smith because I thought he was on duty. I told him what was taking place and definitely not "EXCITED" as the paper suggests? I did however impress upon him how dangerous this was and I wanted it stopped before someone got hurt. He explained he wasn't on duty but he would call officer lemmyer who was on duty and have him go investigate. Next thing I know my daughter calls me saying the officer came to her house instead of Etzlers but my daughter explained what had happened and asked him to go next door instead? He said since Etzler was no longer outside he would report it to the chief and the mayor the next day and let them handle it. He stated it was a FRAGILE situation since it was the mayors son and he had to handle it DELICATELY and left the house. My daughter told me this and I was furious. I called Officer Lemmyer and explained to him that he should not go around suggesting anyone get special treatment due to their father being mayor and that he needed to follow up on it. He then went back to my daughters and took a written report from all parties. Please keep in mind all I wanted was it stopped and if charges had to be filed to do it then so be it. I had no idea at the time that Mike Etzler had a previous incident and record of "aggravated menacing" and "illegal use of a firearm" to which he was convicted? I'm sure this went into play as they charged him? So the suggestion that somehow I retaliated over the flooding was totally false and simply coincidental. Now where there was retaliation is in the rest of the story...Right after Etzler was charged and according to police, Mayor Etzler went to the Police Chief and stated he wanted a parking ban that had been on the books for years but never enforced to suddenly be enforced beginning with my daughter who filed the complaint against his son! FACTS: Center ST has a no parking policy on tree lawns and is one of 4 streets in the community that has this in place. They say it's because it's a truck route but who really knows for sure. TRUTH: this parking ban has NEVER been enforced anywhere in the community and I've asked the neighbors up and down the street and all have said the same. My tree lawn has a drive professionally installed and is almost necessary because my lot isn't wide enough to accommodate a double drive. So at least ten years without enforcement and suddenly my daughter complains about a life threatening situation involving the mayors son and now no one on Center St can park on the tree lawn? You judge for retaliation? NOW as if this wasn't insult enough...Etzler bought his house on Center St in 2009 and shortly after his basement floods...Guess what happened? The city with his father as mayor decides to run a storm drain from Main St. down to Mike Etzlers house so that he can run his basement water directly into it. Problem is there were houses with flooding issues like mine many houses down but the city according to Mike ONLY had enough money to run the drains down and stop at his house? This my friends is what I'm fighting against and will continue to fight win or lose. This is absolutely wrong and in my view is an absolute abuse of power and city tax dollars. Now you have many in the community who I'm sure safely practiced with bows but because one guy doesn't have better judgment to stand in the middle of the street with houses on both sides of him and shoot a bow and arrow? I don't care if he's Robin Hood this is dangerous and shows poor judgment. Now the police have no choice but to enforce the no shooting weapons in town law for everyone. This I tell you is not my fault but rather a guy who has repeatedly used poor judgment whether it be a bow or a gun! I apologize to anyone safely shooting who is hampered by this but blame this guy and not me. One last point ...The paper quoted me as referring to my family as being a cash cow? What I said was my family has lived in the community for 60 years and if you look at how big the family is and all the property we own we bring in a cash cow in terms of property taxes and I followed by saying I should at least get the same treatment the mayors son gets? Funny how they forget to report the small details? So anyway to all my friends and family I didn't mean to embarrass anyone but simply am fighting to protect my family and property. Also know I argued in favor of getting flood relief for ALL my neighbors as well. Thanks for anyone taking the time to read this... Larry


Give'em h*ll, Larry!

In my opinon

@lRisner59, Hey bud you don't need to apologize for or to anyone. You have done nothing more than most people if it was their property. Most cities have an ordnance where you have to have your drainage so many feet from another's property line. As for the Mayor, he should have stood aside and let someone else assess the situation. Hope the people of Greenwich remember this when it is time to vote. A mayor should be partial and work for everyone not family.


Kudos to Lynn Phillips on behalf of the Greenwich Enterprise Review in her reporting the substance of last Tuesday's Greenwich Council meeting. Just the facts Ma'am as one famous tv actor once said. Really , she simply reported in the Greenwich paper the facts and content of what was discussed without going into salacious melodrama and supposition's to sell papers. How refreshing and I want her to know one way or another she has my support in the upcoming council election. Though I'm not a resident I do encourage any and all my family and friends to vote for her. I respect anyone who is able to perform their job with integrity and honesty when it would be just as easy to create unsupported and biased conclusions to sell papers. Now to me that is honest journalism. Job well done Lynn!!


Maybe Lynn Phillips should run for mayor. Sounds like they need some honest, straight forward public servants down there.


I want to thank everyone for the overwhelming words of support. I know there are a lot more important things in the world but all is relative in importance to each and everyone of us.
I also want to make it clear that it has been my belief the Greenwich Police Department have remained completely neutral in this situation and are simply following their boss's directions. The only negative thing I will say about their position is it's pretty sad when an officer (Lemmyer) has to second guess his duties for fear of retaliation based on the fact the issue involved the mayors son?
Now realize since the mayors directive to stop parking in front of our homes on Center St as I've been told will lead to Police completely enforcing every parking ordinance on the books. Some of these are old and archaic but I have spoke with these officers and they will not simply single out my daughter regardless of who is involved. They now will be warning and ticketing EVERYONE simply because the mayors son was charged for discharging a weapon in town?
We as citizens have a couple options...
One: We can simply make sure we're never in violation..
Two: We can go to council with these parking laws and challenge whether or not they are all necessary? Some no doubt are but others could lead to major inconvenience and or health and safety factors.
Third: If not too late perhaps we could see if there is time to mount an initiative to get a Mayoral recall on the November 5th ballot?
I say we all start with council and go from there. That would be my choice and perhaps that may change the environment at city hall?
Regardless , I think it's clear we need new ideas at city hall!! Ideas that are inclusive ,bold, and lead to a better more prosperous and vibrant community


If you look at the person who wrote the story, it doesn't surprise me at all she misconstrued the facts. Never let the facts get in the way of a story.


I understand that there are many who find this petty and silly but I ask you to consider a couple things...First view the photos I provided and secondly how would you feel to have someone stand in the street right next to your home and launch an arrow toward the houses? You also consider it's my daughter and grandson in the home right next door.
Also if simply bringing dirt in would correct this I would have surely done it. I'm a Certified Home Inspector and Licensed Real Estate Agent with the State of Ohio and have an informed opinion as to resolution. As I stated and is fact I tried to resolve this with Etzler at my expense before coming to terms with the fact that he would do nothing. I then took the next appropriate step by approaching council. What else would readers have me do?


Cornmouth is gonna get-cha Deano.

lrisner59 I was waiting for this one..No comment! :)


Why they keep voting that corrupt Mayor in is a mystery.


Dear Larry,
As a fellow resident, I want to let you know that I have followed this story and applaud your tenacity in fighting for what’s right! Have you considered running for council or the school board? There are many changes needed in Greenwich to once again make it “a nice place to live”.


I'm honored that you would think I'm worthy and capable of making a positive difference and truth is I've never before considered it but all happens for a reason and who knows what the future may bring? :)

Bleeding Turnips

Where do I start with this mess?? Small town small minds, did this property just recently sink, or did the Etzler property just raise up? If Mr. Risner is a home inspector, did he not notice the home he was buying was flooding and damp in the crawl space?
Now the whole village a Greenwich (that I know is loaded with hunters)can no longer practice with their bows thanks to this petty B.S. Also now the police have to ticket every car that parks on a tree lawn. LMAO

I'm happy that Greenwich no longer has any real crime to worry about, like heroin or Oxy. The police can now spend their time with squabbling
neighbors because a home inspector bought a house located on a property that was lower than the one next door. Too Funny


Bleeding Turnips, Would prefer your name but since most use a moniker I will address you as that that. Yes, to answer your question I did notice there were issues and spoke to the neighbor right away getting the impression he would work with me to take care of it.This is an investment property. You know my friend where one may purchase a property with potential and invest some capital to upgrade and enhance the property to hopefully one day have a property worth more than one had previously paid for it all the while bringing a higher tax value to the community.
As for hunters? I'm an avid hunter myself but would never stand in the middle of the street and shoot a bow toward homes? Not sure where you live but perhaps that's considered "normal"?
I would also point out to you that there are three separate issues here. Number one is the water..I tried unsuccessfully to resolve this knowing he was in violation of local ordinance.
Number two is the bow incident...One thing to be in a garage or protected area. This just happen to be coincidental and if he had taken safety precautions to shoot that bow = NO Issue
Third is the parking..His Father the mayor is angry because I challenge his son within my rights as a homeowner and he decides to retaliate against me and inadvertently creates problems for all?
These last two issues my friend were brought on by mayor and son and NOT me.If you want to get your yuck yuck on at least get your facts straight.
I'm relatively sure you're not just an innocent bystander in this issue and probably have some skin in the game. " Skin in the game " is a saying that implies one has a direct tie to the issue at hand. Just making clear you understand my meaning.
If you had read the entire story you would have gleaned from the entire story that I had as a neighbor and friend spoke to him several times in trying to come to a solution that was fair and safe for both of us but as the story goes and is my contention there are those that believe they are above the law and any reasonable expectation is below them.
Thank you for your interest Bleeding Turnip, Larry
Now to answer your question about properties rising and falling?


Run for Council, Larry.

In my opinon

@Bleeding Turnips... I am glad I don't live near you if you think it is ok to stand in the road and shoot arrows into your garage. TAKE IT TO A PRACTICE RANGE. Or move to the country. What's worse than drug users? So called NORMAL people running around shooting bow and arrows in the neighborhoods where there are children.