Documentary producer and heiress Candyce Martin says she’s never been the sort to get into spats with her neighbors. But after buying the Jeremiah Williams house, a seven-bedroom, $4.175 million Georgetown fixer-upper at 3035 Dumbarton St. NW in 2001, she’s been buffeted by complaints from neighbors irritated by her seemingly endless renovations (“Heir to Stay,” 7/30/04). Back in July, Martin estimated that the renovations, which had been under way for two-and-a-half years and necessitated a rusty blue dumpster at the curb in front of the property, would be over in six months.
Nine months later, the dumpster is still there, the renovations continue and at least one neighbor is taking a new tack. Nick Boyle, Martin’s next-door neighbor, alleges that Martin has skimped on her property taxes. According to tax records in the public domain and Martin’s own account, she currently claims two separate properties—3035 Dumbarton Street and another Georgetown home on Reservoir Road—as primary residences and therefore is claiming a homestead tax deduction worth approximately $365 on both of the million-dollar homes. Not only has Martin never lived in the Dumbarton Street house, Boyle contends, but it’s also not possible for a person to have two primary residences. A city employee has told him, Boyle says, that as a result of this issue Martin is being investigated by District authorities.
The Office of Tax and Revenue would neither confirm nor deny that it is investigating Martin’s property. The Office of the Inspector General is a little more direct: Robert Andary, the assistant inspector general for investigations, admits that his agency is looking into a matter involving 3035 Dumbarton, “but being that it’s an open matter, I cannot comment on it.” As to what the inspector general’s office could potentially be looking into, Andary notes, “Our primary focus is waste, fraud, and abuse by D.C. employees. But we also look at program fraud.”
Although publicizing his neighbor’s property taxes might not seem neighborly, Boyle insists that hassling Martin wasn’t his goal. “We don’t have any vendetta against Candy Martin,” Boyle, an attorney, says of himself and his wife, National Public Radio correspondent Mary Louise Kelly. “We just want to move the project along and get the neighborhood back to being nice.” He adds that Martin’s renovations have now been in progress for “longer than the D.C. government expects building the Nats’ stadium to take.”
Martin denies that anything is remotely improper about her property-tax filings. “The city sends me a property bill and I pay it,” she says. Though she does not yet live at her Dumbarton property, she insists she is entitled to the homestead deduction on both of her District houses because she currently lives in one and is preparing to live in the other. “I consider Dumbarton to be my legal residence,” Martin says. “Period.”
The Office of Tax and Revenue’s Doug Schauss states that a house’s owner must use it as a principal residence to be eligible for a homestead deduction.
A public airing of her property-tax records will not increase the speed at which her house is renovated, Martin says. The project has taken longer than most, she says, because the house has not been redone properly in 145 years. “It looked like a haunted house up there,” Martin says of the house’s former condition, “and everybody said so.” She also notes that the neighborhood has a stake in the proper restoration of her historically valuable future home. “Is it better to let important houses—and this is an important house—rot because the neighbors are inconvenienced?” she asked.
Martin says she hopes to move into her new home and remove the dumpster by the end of the summer. She asserts that the time it has taken to renovate 3035 Dumbarton is simply what was necessary to do the job by the book. “We don’t flush the toilets without a permit,” she declares. “Actually, we don’t have toilets [yet], but if we did.” CP