Fenton Village neighbors join up to offer properties
Residents find strength – and potential profit – in numbers by marketing their land collectively
The assemblage, bounded by Bonifant, Grove and Easley streets, is found in a fairly ordinary area of single-family residences with sizable backyards within walking distance to the downtown and Metro station.
But the possible asking price, which the listing agent has posted for the nine parcels in the assemblage as between $1.5 million and $13.5 million is, some say, extraordinary.
The assemblage is the latest attempt by residents on the fringe of a commercial district to evaluate what they could get for their land if they were to sell to a developer not property by property, but as a group.
Since October, the 60 single-family homes in the Sacks neighborhood of Bethesda have talked to more than 20 developers about possibly selling their homes.
‘‘People look at their properties as if they were going to sell them individually, and ask, ‘Can I do better if we all come together?’ The answer is ‘Yes,’” said Marc Rosenbloom, the listing agent for the assemblage with Darnestown-based MJR Realty and Appraisers.
Mel Tull, Silver Spring’s central business district liaison, said what the property owners have is a unique idea, because ‘‘it hasn’t been done” as far as he knows. What he has seen is developers approaching homeowners with potential offers, but most of those initiatives have fallen through because too few homeowners got on board.
In Silver Spring, ‘‘there’s not that much opportunity for homeowners to get together,” he said.
The values of the homes involved, most of which were built in the 1920s, range from about $430,000 to $510,000, according to the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation. Actual sale prices for single-family homes do not necessarily reflect the assessment values.
Rosenbloom said he was working with engineers and planners on preliminary drawings that would work in a neighborhood zoned three ways: for single-family dwellings; transitional space just outside the central business district; and a central business district that could allow for several-story apartments or condos with ground-floor retail.
Another important factor, he said, would be finding an offer everyone was comfortable with.
Becky Sherblom, who lives at 807 Easley St., said Rosenbloom called her and said she could get as much as three times what her property was worth. It is assessed for about $430,000, according to the Maryland Department of Assessment and Taxation.
‘‘I would buy [elsewhere] in the neighborhood if it sold,” said Sherblom, who has lived in the area for 17 years and has a daughter at a nearby school.
Anne White, whose mother lived in one of the homes involved in the assemblage at 801 Easley St. until she passed away this year, said the homeowners’ first attempt to assemble was three years ago.
The broker involved then was ‘‘less than aggressive,” she said, and it was not until she contacted Rosenbloom that the effort was revitalized.
‘‘We’re really just getting off the ground with this. ... It’s still just a possibility,” she said.
While White, an Olney resident, said she feels a deep attachment to the home her grandfather built, she said there was no longer any need for her to keep it.
Rosenbloom said he has not yet spoken to any developers, but if a new owner came to him with a plan and an offer acceptable to the homeowners, county processes would take into account concerns neighbors may have before anything is approved.
Some members of the community, hearing rumors of potential development, have not been pleased with the news. Rosenbloom said despite no formal announcement about plans to develop the area, he received a threatening phone call from an anonymous Silver Spring resident Monday afternoon.
Neighbors interviewed for this story were concerned about the effects of the possible development.
Karen Roper, who lives in Fenton Village, said she was worried that the homes on the other side of the street of those joining in the assemblage would be encroached upon with any plans for development. When the First Baptist Church at Wayne Avenue and Fenton Street was looking into amending its zoning to build a taller structure, residents objected so much, she said, that the idea failed before it got to Park and Planning.
Bob Colvin, president of the East Silver Spring Citizens’ Association, said his group has not taken any formal position on the matter, but he was personally opposed.
‘‘I realize people would love to get the money. ... On the flip side, those of us who are left, we’re getting swamped with housing,” he said.
Glenn Kreger, Park and Planning team leader for Silver Spring and Takoma Park, said a concern he has heard from area residents was that a developer would attempt to rezone the area to achieve more density outside the central business district. The area is zoned to allow for more height in the central business district, with single-family zoning within the residential neighborhood.
Rosenbloom said the two acres in question were on three different zoning levels, with one property adjacent to a county parking lot. Including that lot in the assemblage would make it more valuable to a developer, he said. If the rest of the block, the Citgo gas station, the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring and the home next to Citgo also came on board, that could also change any potential vision for development there.
Rosenbloom said a potential project could include commercial retail, three to four-story garden apartments or condos, and townhouses, a vision he said was compatible in the community. White said it was not the homeowners’ intention to build more high-rises in the community.
‘‘We absolutely have a say in who we sell to,” White said, adding that she was personally against the ‘‘monstrosity” that is now Silver Spring Towers on Easley Street. ‘‘Whatever say we have will be in the best interest of downtown Silver Spring.”