Magical Barn To House Conversion On Murphy Lane: Latest Developments

People who have followed this blog will remember the debacle of the city’s handling of the “conversion” of the “barn” [Some would say large shed] to a house on Murphy Lane in 2016. The real estate agent who bought the barn applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a host of variances stating in their application that they were going to save the barn and convert it to a home. To do this they needed variances for everything from set backs to required parking spaces as it would face a narrow alley. In violation of the assurances they put in their application for variances, they tore the existing structure down anyway. In a particularly controversial action the structure is much higher than the original. This was a poster child case for the abdication of responsibility by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The city halted construction, but due to gross mishandling by the ZBA, its staff person, Susan Barden, and the Building Inspector at the time, Steve Shaw, the city ended up in court and in the end had to allow the project to go forward. For details do a search on this site for Murphy Lane.

Recently, the property was listed for sale for a whopping $722,000, and among the specifications in the ad was that the property has two parking spaces. The seller successfully received a variance to allow for only one parking space. The allotted space off the ally barely accommodates one car. There is nowhere on the property for a second parking space. Here are some pictures of the property. Note how narrow the alley is if a car is parked in front of the house making it difficult for the neighbor with the red vehicle to get out of their driveway, and these pictures do not show how narrow the ally becomes when snow piles up.

So it appears that the seller is misrepresenting the property. A neighbor who has been the victim in this project complained to the city about what appears to be an improper representation. The neighbor noted that the seller has laid pea gravel in front of the house which appears to be in the city right of way.

The Mayor’s office referred the complaint to Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin. The Public Safety office includes the office of code enforcement. I emailed Peter Martin on June 21 asking about the right of the owner to advertise the property as having two parking spaces and to lay stone in front of the property. I did not receive a response so on June 26 I wrote Commissioner Martin again asking if he would respond.

The Commissioner promptly responded to my second email with the following indicating that his department was going to put “No Parking” signs up:

Re: Murphy Lane

I have traveled Murphy Lane to look at the issues that you discuss and I have sent our police chief and fire battalion chief as well.  We will be posting fire lane – no parking signs on Murphy Lane. These signs are created by an outside firm and it can take several weeks to have them created.  The issue concerning compliance with building plans (height, etc.) should be reviewed by the city building department before issuing a Certificate of Occupancy.  We do not have enforcement powers with respect to the veracity of realtor advertisements.  Let me know if there is anything that I missed.

Peter R. Martin

The CO has already been issued so this still left the issue of the apparent misrepresentation regarding the parking spaces. I should allow that maybe I am missing something that explains all of this. I called a local realtor whose opinion I respect and asked what recourse there was about this kind of thing. He suggested that I contact the manager of the local realtor office that issued the listing.
I called that office and spoke to its manager. Understandably she appeared rather stunned and confused. She probably rarely hears from bloggers regarding her office’s listings. First she offered to connect me with the agent/seller. I declined. She then said she would look into it and get back to me.
I will advise the readers of this blog if and when she gets back to me.

16 thoughts on “Magical Barn To House Conversion On Murphy Lane: Latest Developments”

  1. Only in Saratoga can you list a “barn” for 3/4 of a million dollars.

    This” barn” is a hold over form the Yippie-Yep-yep years, eh?
    These are bad people.
    There is a special place in you-know-where for this Dag character.
    ARE THERE NO RULES? NO LAWS? What the heck is going on???

    Peter Martin said: “These signs are created by an outside firm and it can take several weeks to have them created.”

    We have several sign shops in the area that can do this the same day.
    The reflective blanks are stock items.
    All they have to do is pull up the no-parking template and it’s done.

    Fast Signs comes to mind.
    Mr. Martin? Really? Such incompetence!

    Somebody better put their foot down & put a stop to the shenanigans.
    Idiocracy incorporated.


    -JC 😦


    1. First, let me say you probably won’t post this. Shame on you! You are nothing but a bully! I hope our youth aren’t exposed to all this negativity. I believe in freedom of speech but, it’s sad that people have to be so low to hide behind their meaningless blog. Boo!!!


      1. Sorry. Miss C– You are WRONG.
        DEAD WRONG.

        Maybe, if you were the neighbors across the way with an address on WHITE STREET, you’d think twice.

        Are you a Saratogian?
        Maybe, you have vested interest the investment group involved in this quick-flip speculation.
        If not, you’re being played; wake up kid.

        What part of “NO” don’t you understand?
        There are rules, Catherine.

        We all agreed to these rules.
        Well, those of us LAW ABIDING citizens, certainly do.
        Unless, of course, they’re socialists (that’s another story).

        It’s what makes for an ordered and civilized society.
        Everyone can’t just do whatever they please.
        This inanity must stop.

        Get real.

        -JC 😦


  2. As usual, if you’re a builder -do what you want- fast! Then the city officials won’t know what to do about it.


  3. I’m not surprised that this project fell under the not-so watchful eye of the previous building inspector. The original structure’s footprint was obviously the ploy used for the variances, but I wonder who also vetted this proposal for at the very least, issues of water runoff and compliant on-site parking requirements? Non-conforming pre-existing structures are often given exceptions for good reason, but when a property is removed or reconstructed, then the new codes and zoning legislation should apply (along with current approvals for relief given the applicant).

    Real estate salespersons rarely go beyond the surface to handle properties, especially when violations exist for that said property at the city. Is it a UR-1 or UR-3 structure (in a UR-3 neighborhood) or a two principal building only permitted within a UR-4 classification? Are the rental units approved or even permitted? What are the responsibilities of structures in historic districts? I have always believed that realtors have an ethical responsibility to be accurate if they indeed are representing a buyer or seller by commission.

    It looks like this project was ushered by not-so diligent shepherds.


    1. A crime was committed, James.
      These people are not above the law.

      Somebody needs to be held accountable.
      Just ask the neighbors across the way.

      Who’s in charge, here?
      Anybody? Hello?



      1. There is a process that anyone can follow or flaunt. For every 100 construction permits issued, I’m certain that a few, don’t go as scripted. For this one, there was at the very least, a problem in the house and he is no longer home. Many people work outside the system, not because it is so onerous but because they believe they can do it quicker and less expensive and no one the wiser.
        Most often, unpermitted and non-compliant construction only creates a stain on the property that stays with the deed – the products some times of unlicensed designers and midnight construction companies or worse, people that know better and whose accomplices unabashedly later, market the property. Clearly, that is not the case here, but my guess is that the horse has left the barn and is too far down the road to coax it back.

        “… Somebody needs to be held accountable. … Who’s in charge, here?”

        Who am I talking to?


  4. Note the loving attention to fine architectural detail. The skinny sticks of lumber holding up the overhanging back part of the house. Gorgeous… They don’t build ’em like they used to!


    1. I can understand the unornamented nod to an early 20th century barn structure utilizing a traditional and vernacular treatment like board and batten and clapboards but proportionately the dimensions of the casings miss as does that eye curdling post at the corner (which may be temporary). A darker, warmer field color would have also been more appropriate on this structure in order to pull the gray leviathan back away from the alley. Changing the paint color someday is easy as is replacing that post with a column.

      Public rights-of-way (ROW) in narrow alleys are compromised when barriers are placed to the edge leaving little or no room for snow removal or the less recognized sideloading garbage trucks. I believe a 10-foot or less ROW prevents refuge trucks from access. Moreover, planting strips on thoroughfares are purposed more as repositories for snow removal than for grass and therefore should not be reduced through appeals.


  5. This blog has proven to be wonderful source for local information, and I thank JK for his diligent efforts. Without this blog, we would only have rumors and Facebook. The local newspaper is useless.
    Some statements have been made here on this subject, similar to postings on Facebook, and they should have been better researched.


    1. Excellent comment Henry!
      Some of us would enjoy having more of these kinds of forums.

      Very informative.
      I particularly enjoy reading your posts; et alia.



  6. John Kaufman has been a strong advocate for his neighbors who objected to projects that were determined to be objectionable such as the Murphy Lane barn conversion and the Pink Palace renovation and re-development. I hope that John can understand the complaints of those residents living in the neighborhood that would be directly impacted by commercial use of the Morgan Street property.

    Chris Mathiesen


  7. John Kauffman has indeed been a strong advocate against projects that were objectionable, but the notion that characterizes all neighborhood objections as an acceptable automatic response is untrue. Some variables to these three projects may be similar but not in the manner that should blanket their responses as simply, a victimization of residents by their city government or their neighbors. The previous writer must remember his time spent listening to concerns from other neighbors who provided him with their justifications on several occasions along with signed petitions only to have their concerns seemingly fall on deaf ears.

    If safety is indeed a concern for this residential neighborhood, why has the city permitted its residents no option other than for its pedestrians to navigate in the streets year-round for lack of improvements along public rights of way on thoroughfares that the residents themselves recognize as traffic corridors? I recall another neighborhood fearing for its safety when crimes on several occasions went unreported to the residents or the public. I’m sure one can understand how that directly impacted that neighborhood and its sense of well-being. One can only hope that that oversight has been corrected.

    Describing the remote and singular proposed medical office building as a commercial use is better than its previous implied connotation as a medical office complex. I understand the purposeful use of language to direct one’s message and vested interest but realizing that this private land originally zoned for residential apartments would offer the adjacent complexes and homes less buffering than what is proposed, should also be a part of the dialogue.

    Furthermore, as if to capture some larger cache, this property is neither a historic site nor is it part of this city’s undefined green belt, that some habitual agitators who know better, have proposed to those that would listen but instead – private land destined for development.

    Lastly, for some political operatives to imply that the city council does not listen to its residents is gaslighting at its worst. Theirs is not always a thankful job. Balancing complaints of residents (as expressed by the previous writer) against the larger responsibility of all city residents of all stripes is not for the faint at heart. In the end, an objective and responsible summation should be qualified for all city residents to understand.


    1. All I said was that I hope that John Kaufman can understand the complaints of those residents living in the neighborhood that would be directly impacted by commercial use of the Morgan Street property.

      Chris Mathiesen


      1. Hey Commish–

        Isn’t Jim amazink…?

        It’s like some wacky algorithm where you plug in a goofy subject and it extrapolates a paragraph of extraordinary, run-on predicates.

        And maybe that’s why we love him so much!

        Not to worry, Chris.
        We all got your previous post.

        -JC 😉


  8. Sometimes, it’s not what you don’t know but what you know. In your case it may just be, who you don’t know. I think it relevent to broaden the discussion sometimes when indirect remarks masks one’s true intentions. But then my friend, you enjoy masks.


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