A Different Type Of Tear-Down: Court Orders Million Dollar Marblehead Manse Demolished For Zoning Violation

One Very Expensive Lesson

This is a human interest story that contains a good reminder for those of us who often believe that when it comes to dealing with certain authorities, it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission. In this case, that strategy proved disasterous. I have posted it here courtesy of Attorney Marc Canner’s and Attorney Rich Vestein’s Massachusetts Real Estate Law Blog.

marblehead-home-teardownAfter a 16 year long saga, wealthy Marblehead mansion owner Wayne Johnson’s battle to save his house from a court-ordered wrecking ball has come to an end. The underlying legal saga is convoluted and complicated, but the end result was swift and destructive — the million dollar mansion is now rubble.

Johnson’s battle started in 1995 when he recorded a plan dividing his land into two lots. One lot contained an existing single-family dwelling. The second lot contained a garage.johnson-tear-down The house lot complied with all zoning dimensional requirements, but the garage lot didn’t comply with lot width requirements. The Building Inspector incorrectly determined that the garage lot complied with all applicable zoning requirements.

Johnson’s neighbors appealed the Building Inspector’s decision, arguing that the new house would greatly diminish their valuable ocean views. The local zoning board allowed the issuance of a building permit. After the building permit issued, the plaintiffs filed an appeal in Land Court and asked for an injunction to prevent construction on the garage lot. The Land Court judge warned Johnson that proceeding with construction was at his peril. In a decision by another judge in May, 2000, the court ordered the building permit to be revoked. However, the court ruled that the house could remain in place while Johnson attempted to obtain appropriate zoning relief.

Johnson, however, was unable to obtain zoning relief. After several unsuccessful appeals, the Land Court ordered Johnson to remove the house by October 4, 2010. Johnson failed to comply with that order, and the neighbors attempted to hold Johnson in contempt. With the threat of contempt and possible jail looming, Johnson finally threw in the towel.

The Land Court ruling can be read here:
Schey v. Johnson

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Please Don’t Make These Mistakes…

Someday, somewhere, you will probably have to do some work in your home.  If you remember just a few brief words of advice, your home will be just that much nicer for both you and anyone else who may ever live there.

Early in my real estate career, a very wise and experienced real estate professional told me that when you are doing a renovation you ought to spend as much as you can on the parts of the house you physically interact with the most. He was referring to the things you actually touch like door handles, faucets and railings. However, much to my chagrin, many builders seem to subscribe to the opposite philosophy – put in the cheapest and ugliest fixtures you can find.

My number one pet peeve here is the Symmons brand ‘shower exchanger’. This is the device that diverts the water in your tub/shower combination to either the tub or the shower. I am sure you have seen it a thousand times. If you own one, please don’t be offended. I am the proud owner of several of these in my rental properties, although I didn’t install them.

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It is actually fairly solid and reliable. If you are renovating a rental property and you really don’t want to have to worry about having to replace it for a long time, it might not be a crime to put it in. At about $112 for the whole set (valve and trim kit) it is inexpensive. It is also, in my humble opinion, just plain ugly. For only a little bit more (about $130 – $150) you can get a high quality Kohler fixture that looks pretty good, for example:

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and

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You can find these and others at http://www.faucetdirect.com/shower-valve-trim/c241

If you are only shopping for the shower valve, you can do even better for about the same money because you won’t need a tub spout and an exchanger. This leads to my next subject – the walk-in shower versus the shower/tub combination.  I am sure my opinion on this will lead to lots of controversy and contentiousness.  You will, however, have to check back in two weeks to see what all the fuss is about.

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A Peek at the Ultra High-End

Hi. Welcome to my new blog. If you are reading this you are also reading the very first entry.

Did you happen to read the Boston Globe on Friday July 8th? You might have caught the front page article entitled “What price luxury.” See the Boston.com article here. In a nut shell, the 6,829 square foot Penthouse at the Mandarin on Boylston Street in the Back Bay just sold for $13.2M (Hey you do get 4 parking spaces for your $10,000+ per month condo fee, and 3000 sqft of deck space). The sellers paid about $13.1M about 3 years ago, and never even moved in. secure server . Interestingly, these same sellers put it on the market for $16.99M and it took 32 months for it to sell.

This appears to me to be the most expensive condominium ever sold in the city of Boston. Second Place goes to another Mandarin unit that recently sold for $12.2M and 3rd place to a Penthouse Unit at 51 Comm. Ave. that sold last year for $10.8M. That unit took 4 years to sell. Currently there two other off-the-charts Penthouses available. One at the new Clarendon for $6.75M and the other at the Four Seasons for $8M. If you’re really interested in the Clarendon unit, ask me about as I saw it a couple of weeks ago.

New York has had $10M+ apartments for a long time so why not Boston? I don’t think it says too much about the real estate market in general. One, it means that Boston is attracting some of the super rich. That is good as it helps maintain Boston’s reputation as a world class city. And two, no matter what the price range, overpricing your property is still a bad strategy.

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