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Martinsburg landlord offers to buy Boydville estate for $500,000

December 04, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com
  • Boydville is shown in this 2002 file photo.
File photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — A Martinsburg landlord has offered to buy the 200-year-old Boydville estate in Martinsburg for $500,000 from the Berkeley County Farmland Protection Board.

Jonathon T. Mann formally presented his offer Tuesday night to the farmland board during a special meeting.   

The farmland board, which acquired the property for $2.25 million in 2005 to protect it from a proposed residential project, could vote on the proposal Thursday at its regular meeting.

After hearing Mann’s proposal and discussing it, the board opted to delay a vote on selling the property after newly appointed board member Matthew Barney requested time to tour the home.

Mann was the only person to respond to an advertised request for proposals to purchase the property, farmland board Chairman Floyd Kursey said.

The farmland board has been advised by legal counsel that it cannot use property transfer tax revenue it receives for the property’s upkeep because that funding stream is to be used for placing conservation easements on farmland.

Fundraisers have been held to raise money for the property’s upkeep and grants have been awarded for it, but Kursey acknowledged more needs to be done to maintain the venerable estate.

Under terms of a proposed sale agreement, Mann would be allowed to make $1,500 monthly payments over five years before paying off the remaining balance to acquire the 13.6-acre property at 601 S. Queen St.

Mann said he would make a $5,000 down payment and planned to sell some of the 10 properties he already owns in Martinsburg to devote more attention to Boydville. In addition to his real estate business, Mann said he also works for the Internal Revenue Service.

Mann, who lives with his wife, Meagan Mann, in The Gallery, a subdivision in the city’s west end, said he intends to move his family into the home and operate it as a bed and breakfast.

Mann said he loves old houses, subscribes to This Old House magazine and is fully supportive of preserving the Boydville’s “historic integrity.” However, Mann also asked to be allowed to make a number of modifications to the home, which is the focal point of a preservation easement that the farmland board recently completed for the structure.

Mann asked to allow original hand-painted wallpaper on the first floor of the circa-1812 home to be replaced due to deterioration of plaster beneath it and because of the wallpaper’s dark appearance. He agreed to preserving sections of the wallpaper on the second floor that were in better condition, but indicated preserving the wallpaper on the first floor in the foyer could be costly.

Citing his wife’s interest in their personal living space, Mann also asked for enlargement of bathroom space and creation of larger closet areas at the home.

Mann backed away from a request to consider allowing a garage addition to the home when he heard unanimous objection from the four board members who attended the meeting along with Berkeley County Council member Elaine C. Mauck.

Mann also sought the farmland board’s support on having the property assessed as agricultural land for tax purposes.

“I just don’t want to be hammered right off the bat,” said Mann, who added that higher tax liability could be “disastrous” for him.

Kursey said it was his understanding that the acreage would be automatically assessed as agricultural land because of the conservation easement that would be placed on it.

Mann said he intended to rent the law office on the property for commercial use to generate revenue. He also indicated he would allow a caretaker who lives in a tenant house to continue maintaining the grounds, but that arrangement is not part of the proposed sales agreement.

Board members appeared generally sympathetic to Mann’s proposal to install a commercial kitchen and to make improvements to the bathrooms, but the wallpaper removal and addition of closet space prompted objections from some.

Mann’s proposed purchase price wasn’t discussed by board members, but farmland board Executive Director Robert L. White said after the meeting that conservation easements generally cause “very substantial” decreases in market values on property, citing past instances when values dropped by more than half.

The farmland board’s purchase, backed by $750,000 from the City of Martinsburg, essentially assured the property’s value would decline, according to White. He also noted the impact of the housing market’s decline on the value. If the property is sold, the city would recapture one-third of the proceeds per an agreement with the farmland board, White said

A 2010 appraisal based on the placement of a conservation easement on the property pegged Boydville’s value at $1,072,000, officials have said.

Kursey said Mann had been looking at the property for more than a year and board members Susan Whalton and Barbara Bratina lauded the prospective buyer’s participation in volunteer efforts involving the property since then. Barney noted that one city official he contacted spoke “very highly” of Mann’s work to maintain other properties he purchased in Martinsburg.

Boydville was spared from burning in the Civil War by order of President Abraham Lincoln. The property, once part of a 300-acre farm owned by Gen. Elisha Boyd, who served in the War of 1812, also once was home to the nation’s minister to France.

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