Plans to demolish a Magnolia Avenue home, and fear that a “McMansion” will be built in its place, are expected to bring a full house of attendees to Thursday’s Historic Preservation Commission meeting.

But unless the homeowners have a change of heart, concerns from a number of their neighbors may not do anything to halt the plans.

According to property records, the owners of 210 Magnolia Ave. are Marlon and Tanya Artis. A request for demolition review that is set to go before the Historic Preservation Commission on Thursday states that the owners plan to demolish the house and build another in its place.

The commission is slated to hear the demolition review request to determine whether it is eligible for individual historic designation. The request was postponed June 29 after commissioners expressed concerns about tearing down a perfectly adequate old house and replacing it with what is expected to be a larger, more modern structure.

Neighbors have dubbed the structure expected to take the home’s place a “McMansion,” a slang term for a large modern house that is considered ostentatious and lacking in architectural integrity. After the June meeting, they began rallying and are now expected to have a large representation at Thursday’s meeting.

Plans for a ‘relatively
normal size’ home

Property records show that the Artises bought the two-story, 1,984-square-foot home in November 2016 for $395,000. Marlon Artis confirmed via phone Tuesday that he is the owner of the house, but he did not return a later call for further comment.

Records show the Artises submitted a request on June 21 to raze the two structures on the property — which include the house and a two-car detached garage — and build a new house and new detached garage.

The request does not contain details about what type of home or garage the Artises plan to build, and no building permits have been issued for the property through the city’s permitting department.

Curt Adkins, president of Mitchell & Best Homes, is the builder slated to construct the new house. He said at a June 29 Historic Preservation Commission meeting that the house he plans to build at 210 Magnolia is similar to one under construction on Second Street, diagonally across from tennis courts at Baker Park.

“This particular home that they would like to build happens to be the one that we have under construction right now,” Adkins said in the meeting. “It’s probably different colors. ... I don’t know if any of you have gone by and seen the most recent home there at Baker Park under construction. It would essentially be that same design.”

Adkins said via phone after the meeting that although the property is not in the Frederick Town Historic District and is not part of a historic overlay zone, the new house will be designed “in character with the homes in the historic district.”

“The historic district is an eclectic collection of styles. This will be compatible with those,” he said.

Adkins also said the projected home is slated to have two stories and four bedrooms and described it as “relatively normal size for a new home.”

Fearing a ‘McMansion’

Bob Toft lives at 207 Magnolia Ave., a few feet from the Artises’ home. On Tuesday, Toft said he was concerned when he learned about the plans for 210 Magnolia.

“Demolishing that house will tear at the heart of this neighborhood,” Toft said. “People have been talking about selecting this neighborhood [to live] because it embodies the best of living in Frederick. Tree-lined streets, old, stately houses, nice families, all of the things that make Frederick a nice community.”

“Everybody’s really afraid that this is more than a house is being torn down, it’s a way of life,” he added.

Neighbors began an email chain last week to get the word out about the request and trade information. One neighbor also created fliers titled “The McMansion on Magnolia Avenue” that detailed the request and the neighbors’ concerns, and encouraged residents to attend Thursday’s meeting. Toft said the neighbor began handing out the fliers this week and that he knew who created them, but that the neighbor did not want to be named.

John Grgurich, who has lived at 301 Magnolia for nine years, has similar thoughts.

“It never occurred to me that somebody would come into an established neighborhood and tear a house down, especially one that doesn’t look like it’s in terrible repair,” Grgurich said. “It’s what [the neighbors] always feared, building a ‘McMansion.’”

Grgurich also said he respects that the homeowners have a right to do what they want with their property, but he does not want this to be the first in a series of demolitions to build larger houses that may not go with the neighborhood.

Bob Sissom, who lives nearby on Biggs Avenue, pointed out that homes in his neighborhood are some of the last affordable homes in the city. He worries that if people begin buying them, tearing them down and replacing them with larger, more expensive homes, it could phase out some future buyers.

“Some of these houses are the only thing that adjunct professors at Hood College can afford,” he said. “Some of the houses here are in the low 200s, and that’s kind of rare.”

Alderwoman Kelly Russell, who lives on College Avenue, was also part of the email chain and plans to stand with the neighbors at Thursday’s meeting.

“It’s disheartening to me to see a beautiful home in what I consider an historic neighborhood, even though it may not be designated that way, taken down to build something that I don’t know will be in character with the neighborhood or not,” she said.

“These homes are beautiful,” she added. “I’m disappointed legislatively right now that there’s really no remedy for this action.”

Moving through
the process

According to the city’s Demolition Review Ordinance, which the Board of Aldermen passed in 2013, the Historic Preservation Commission must review all demolition applications for properties 50 years old or older for individual historic significance. The house was built around 1950, according to property records.

That means the commissioners must find that the property meets the criteria outlined in the city’s Land Management Code for designation of a Historic Overlay District. Such an overlay would require historic preservation employees and historic preservation commissioners to review any exterior changes to the property.

According to the staff report from the June 29 meeting, staff members do not believe the property is an exemplary representation of the historic homes for the period in which it was built.

Matt Davis, the city’s manager of comprehensive planning, said the only way the Historic Preservation Commission can designate the home as historically significant is if a master builder constructed the home, if someone prominent lived there, or something historically significant occurred at the house.

According to the staff report filed for Thursday’s meeting, that is not the case.

The report includes more details regarding previous owners and the history of the property.

Staff members’ research shows that none of the prior owners of the property were “demonstrably important at a local, State or national context,” according to the report.

“A property would not be eligible if it was simply owned or used by a person who is a member of an identifiable profession, class or social or ethnic group,” the report said.

Follow Mallory Panuska on Twitter: @MalloryPanuska.

(66) comments

StephanieRMontgomery


It is a great solution. Thanks to everyone who contributed to the development we are following the development. Best regards.

StephanieRMontgomery

Hey, very nice blog!! Man ... Beautiful. Amazing. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also... nice post

backinmd

I looked at buying that house when it was for sale. The budget to renovate an outdated and poorly laid out house was too rich for my blood. I applaud the new owners for picking a style that will blend in with the neighborhood. It seems that the NIMBYs are prematurely condemning their neighbor. Be careful, he might put up a "McMansion" just for spite! This is America, after all, and though I wouldn't want someone to build an eyesore next to me, I also cherish the right that the choice is mine. HOA's are for some, and not for others. That is why we have the freedom of choice.

i heart frederick

The house isn't even historic. Give me a break.

jwhamann

It is if the kitchen still has the original matching fridge and stove in turquoise pastel....

elymus43

The people on Magnolia Ave. were not concerned about all the building of homes in other parts of Frederick. Now they are excited when a home owner wants to improve the neighborhood. Let them take a deep breathe and keep on living.

dremsberg

Looks like they intend on putting up a nice house. Suspect neighbors home values will rise - and potentially their taxes.

Probably not the most cost effective solution but when you love a location enough and resources aren't a problem I can understand some may take this course.

Don't know why neighbors are unhappy when someone wants to make this kind of investment in their neighborhood. And frankly doubt there is a thing they can do about it. So embrace it and your new neighbors - your going to be living with them after all.

sevenstones1000

This is why I like HOAs. People with money than taste cannot just come in and trash the neighborhood for everyone with their "property rights".

But no, you folks were all so above having an HOA. Enjoy.

gardenwhimsey

At the time the existing Magnolia Avenue homes were built, HOAs did not exist.

sevenstones1000

Yes they did. Many fine neighborhoods in other cities have HOAs that go back to the 1920s. But no. We have to have complete freedom to trash a neighborhood. Good luck with depending on your neighbors good taste to keep your community nice.

gardenwhimsey

Please provide facts to support HOAs in the 1920s. Also, the discussion is about Frederick and not other cities. I do not believe there were HOAs in Frederick at the time the homes on Magnolia Ave were built. My home is in a subdivision built in the Frederick in the early 60s and there were not then nor are there now HOAs in that area.

Rockfish

[thumbdown]

twhit8225

At Broadway and Madison someone built a huge $599.000 dollar home tat tawers over the other over the homes in the area. I am sure the other homeowners love this.

gardenwhimsey

I pass that intersection every day. I agree it doesn't fit in with the existing homes and they are very close to the home to the right of the new-build. If I understand the sign at the corner of the open space, they are going to squeeze another house into remainder of that lot.

joelp77440

This is really a non-issue and shame on HPC for taking this up. Magnolia is not a historic street and that house is a standard 1950's Colonial. For years they have been trying to sink their teeth outside of the historic district but luckily the Mayor and/or Alderman have pushed them back.

shiftless88

I could barely believe my eyes when I read this article. People are complaining about NOTHING! The builder says it is going to be similar. The owners say it will be similar. There is no evidence it will be anything but similar yet they STILL whine? It's not in the historic district and c'mon; a house from the '50's is probably creaking inside and designed differently than the way people allocate space now. If I were the couple I'd be tempted to demolish and then let it sit like that for a while so the neighbors appreciate it when you finally build a house on the lot. C'mon people, grow up.

threecents

Yah, it sounds like people who are complaining may not even know what they are complaining about.

dollymommy

Kelly Russell had no problem supporting a homeless shelter in the North End neighborhood, but is complaining because someone (not even on her street) is going to construct a big, beautiful new home on their lot? Funny how that works out to be problematic for her.

KellyAlzan

In Bethesda, they will buy a lot with a house for $700k to $1 mil. They the. Tear the house down (about 25k, and as high as $35k). And then build a large home on the property. It's more common with doctors whom HAVE to live close to the hospital.

I'm thrilled that Frederick is doing this. It's saving on infrastructure.

pwinzer

I hope the build a roller coaster just for freedom's sake. #Merica

birdie

I always thought the term MCMansion was applied to large neighborhoods with large mass produced housing Seems that the name really doesnt apply for a hand full of houses. If the nieghborhood wants to stop this from happening then rules need to be set into place. If these peolpe have the means to tear down this house and build its there right to do so. Town needs to get rules in place so it cant happen in the future.

DickD

It really doesn't bother me what the owners do with the property. The questions in my mind are:
- If the owners want a McMansion, why here and why pay
$395,000 to buy and tear down a perfectly good home.
Probably the lot would sell for about $150,000, without a house
on it. So, the owners are paying a $245,000 premium to be
able to buy and rebuild.
- Also, left unsaid in this article is what does that do neighboring
property values. You have a Historical Commission to keep up
the atmosphere of older homes, which the McMansion, most
likely will not represent or at least that is the fear. The builder
does claim it will be compatible, which raises the question of
whether they are complaining without seeing the plans.

Dwasserba

Go see those mega houses across from the tennis courts and then drive along Magnolia.

armillary

DickD, a .27 acre lot at 401 Second Street across from the tennis courts is listed for $525k. Your $150k guess seems low to me.

threecents

Do you think the Magnolia lot would have sold for more than $395K if it did not have a house?

DickD

It very well could be low, but if it is, ar, it means the lot is worth more than the lot and house.

newspostreader

So they don't even know for sure what is going in, but they want to complain about it already.

Dwasserba

Yeah, well, he said it's very like some immense homes on teeny tiny lots where a greenhouse was before. 'Nuff said to guess what's coming.

KellyAlzan

This is like the people in walkersville in sun meadows complaining about the prospect of there being (3) gas stations......when there was (3) gas stations long before their community had broken ground!!!!!!!

Shemp

It's the epitome of greed and capitalism to tear down a perfectly good home just to build something new. Not to mention that the new home is oversized and will not match the surrounding neighborhood. The tear down will also release lead-based paint dust and possibly asbestos into the air and soil.

Dwasserba

I don't know if it's greed, it's got a good location and people want what they want and it's happened before in a few locations and generally looks...odd. Near Frederick Shopping Center, near the pool, on Bentz...and they may be well built for their era. So the question is, does a fifty/sixties consistent ambience deserve protection? There are other neighborhoods to look at, then too. The standard: "Staff members’ research shows that none of the prior owners of the property were “demonstrably important at a local, State or national context,” according to the report," is kind of a wincer. Someone recently lived there who's just been verified as...nobody. Rude...

joelp77440

We do not know it is oversized. Every house on that street was custom so it does not change the nature of that street.

jwhamann

Here's a chance for an architect who's up to the challenge of designing a large house that would fit in with rest of the 1950s-style homes. Hope it can happen. They can use some the original bricks, perhaps.

StephanieRMontgomery

Awesome info! thanks so much! , very thorough, 100% correct, it's called capitalism. 1. If the neighbors were so concerned then they should have bought the property. 2. The People's Republic of Maryland Liberals are all over this because it gives them the opportunity to try and tell people how to think and what people should do, even with their own property.
Great blog post!!

Rockfish

[thumbup]

Titanman123

Private property rights are so fundamental in this country! I like Kelly Russell but she is wrong on this!

lilman44

Neighbors should mind their own business and stop trying to tell others how to run things.

CDReid

As long as the Artis's house qualifies for the plans they have for it, it's none of the neighbor's business what they do with it. If the Artises so choose to live in a "McMansion," they're perfectly entitled to and the neighbors will simply have to deal with it. They've no right, or business, telling someone what they can, or cannot, do with their property.

rmaghan1

100% correct, it's called capitalism. 1. If the neighbors were so concerned then they should have bought the property. 2. The People's Republic of Maryland Liberals are all over this because it gives them the opportunity to try and tell people how to think and what people should do, even with their own property.

duffy5x

You mean the way conservatives want to tell me what to do with my body?

threecents

This has nothing to do with liberal vs conservative. If there is no rule or law against them putting in a bigger house, then of course they should be able to do so. Of course it it will change the character of the neighborhood, then people have a right to voice their concerns. It is called democracy.

CDReid

One house will change the character of the entire neighborhood? I hardly think so.

DickD

CD, have you ever heard of building codes, zoning and covenants?

Comment deleted.
richardlyons

Your first sentence makes no sense.

Comment deleted.
CDReid

OK, let me spell it out for you: as long as the owners are allowed by Frederick laws and codes to raze the current house, and as long as the homeowners are allowed by Frederick laws and codes to build a new house of their choice on the lot, and as long as the homeowners and the builder follow all the pertinent rules when doing so, then it's no one else's business. That was the point of my first sentence.

Dwasserba

Change is hard. Everybody, wake up! People want to live where it's convenient. Are teardowns affordable in your neighborhood? Would it be ok with you? Entitlement stops where another's entitlement begins.

Mardi35

Some people have too much money to know what to do with it....never satisfied.

gardenwhimsey

They didn't stop the building of the McMansion on Schley Ave. just off of 7th Street. That house is twice the size of anything else in the area and it's "architecture" of the residences around it. But maybe the folks on Schley couldn't stop it because they don't have the financial base the people on Magnolia Avenue seem to have. Based only on the picture accompanying this article, he Magnolia Ave. home appears to be in good condition but there could be underlying problems we aren't aware of. The existing home is almost 2000 square feet so, again based only on the picture, you'd think they could put on a new roof, replace the windows, gut the inside and rewire, etc., instead of tearing it down. And why tear down the two-car garage? A garage is just a garage, how much does it need to be modernized? The article mentioned a different, new, house diagonal from the tennis courts. Is that being built on the old Zimmerman's property?

Dwasserba

Yes. Go look. It's a neighborhood now.

joelp77440

What house on Schley? I only know of one newer style house and that is not a McMansion.

gardenwhimsey

A "McMansion" is any house that far outsizes the other homes in the immediate neighborhood. There was a lot of complaining when the Schley Ave. house was built. Even on google maps https://www.google.com/maps/dir/5871+Urbana+Pike,+Frederick,+MD+21704/Schley+Ave,+Frederick,+MD+21702/@39.4300057,-77.4211804,18z/data=!4m13!4m12!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c9da3f49b3acb5:0x4d887513911d5924!2m2!1d-77.4065399!2d39.3967404!1m5!1m1!1s0x89c9dafd6af6161f:0x22f2e5a4c9372336!2m2!1d-77.4257001!2d39.4273047 you can discern the large discrepancy between the house to which I refer and those around it.

trwz

gardenwhimsey - the "folks" on Schley Avenue have the financial base to influence community decisions in their neighborhood if they decide it's necessary.

threecents

Why would they want to tear it down? It is a beautiful house in a beautiful neighborhood. I did not realize it was part of the historic district, but good thing if it is. The rules are there for a reason.

jwhamann

It is NOT in the Historic District.

threecents

You are correct. Sorry I did not read carefully.

weedsinfrederick

I looked at the house when it was for sale. The interior is a mess, hasn't been updated in 60 years, rotten window sills, etc. If the owners have the money, let them do as they wish

Rockfish

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. What's beautiful to you obviously isn't beautiful to the property owner. Dam NIMBYS

DKai

Why don't Mr. & Mrs. Artis DONATE the structures to Habitat For Humanity. HFH may have a (currently) vacant lot this house would fit on. The only cost would be a foundation and moving, items that may be equivalent to the Artis' demolition costs.

Eddie2

How bout YOU sharing your house with Habitat for Humanity...

Rockfish

[thumbup]

KellyAlzan

This is how new housing development is done in Bethesda and McLean VA.

So instead of building on nice farm land - someone in Frederick is FINALLY wanting to rebuild on an existing lot! This saves on needing additional municipal infrastructure (police, fire, sewage plants, etc)

There is a builder in Bethesda that builds some BEAUTIFUL new homes that fit in real nicely with the old town charm.

With the right architecture - this can be a really good thing.

mole1sk

The new owners should be able to do as they wish. Sounds like a huge investment on there part. Maybe this will increase home values for the neighbors when finished.

KellyAlzan

without a doubt

Dwasserba

It can look odd to where your neighboring home might be harder to sell. Some bigger grander house bearing down on yours is not an asset usually.

Shemp

Exactly correct, Dewasserba. The new McMansion home will actually detract from the value of existing homes. And it is arrogant greed when someone buys a fully functioning and useable home just to tear it down, meanwhile poor people are living in tents, cars, and shelters.

CapitanoZanetti

[scared] Yes things that can look odd for Dwasserba otherwise known as things that don't matter. Did you read the article even the NIMBY neighbors are smart enough to know that this sort of property development means neighborhood property value is very high and upon completion the neighborhood will be more desirable and more expensive. Stop bearing down on us with the stupidity of your ideas. It is not an asset for anyone usually [smile]

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