Town House Is Dirt-cheap -- And There's Plenty Of Dirt

January 30, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

David Rossi has only lived in his new town house for a week, but he's already used to conditions that would make most people want to move.

He has no grass. When he looks out a window -- any window -- he sees dirt. Construction workers outnumber neighbors, and he has to share parking spaces with bulldozers.

But Rossi doesn't mind at all. He was sick of paying $720 in rentfor an apartment in Laurel and thought it would be a good time to buy a home -- even in a brand-new development like Piney Orchard.

His wife's mother -- a part-time real-estate agent -- knew of a new housing community in Odenton, and Rossi bought into the planned unit development on the ground floor.

Paying for the town house before it was built got him a good deal -- about $40,000 less than the units will cost -- but it came with drawbacks. He will have to wait at least one or two years before any semblance of a community forms around him.

"We checked it out," Rossi said. "We got it at a pre-construction price, but there is a little risk because you don't know what's what. I heard this will be another Columbia."

A "mini-Columbia" is what developers call the Odenton area, the county's latest boom in the development business. Piney Orchard is the second planned unit development in West County to open its doors to residents.

Seven Oaks, on 590 acres at the corner of routes 32 and 175, sold its first homes last year. More than 200 families now live there.

Three people currently live in Piney Orchard -- all of them in an 11-town house stretch built by Ryan Homes in the northern part of the property, just offnewly constructed Piney Orchard Parkway, an extension of Route 170.

The homes sit amid acres of undeveloped land. Bulldozers work continually, priming the area for new homes that will be built over the next couple of years.

In all, Piney Orchard could build up to 4,000 homes, although an official for the KMS Group Inc., a developing company in Columbia, said it won't build that many.

Bob Strott, senior vice president for KMS, said he predicts 1,000 families will be living in Piney Orchard within two years.

"That may be a little ambitious," he said. "The only thing I am hedging that on is if builders cannot get financing from banks. The banks are a little goosey right now. That is unfortunate, because these are great products."

Strott insisted he is not worried about the current slump in the housing market, saying he has sold 37 homes. "We can't build them fast enough,"he said.

Piney Orchard sits on 2,000 acres south of Odenton. Single-family homes, apartments and town homes are planned for the area.

Although only 11 town homes have been built, KMS has finished workon the community center, complete with an indoor lap pool. Tennis courts and an outdoor pool also are completed.

Rossi said he liked the fact that amenities were built before he moved in. "KMS seems to know what it is doing," he said. "They had all the roads and sidewalks in place. Not a lot of developments have that."

Rossi said he bought the town house for $114,000, and it already has been appraised at$133,000.

Greg Jones also said he got a good deal on his town house. "We looked around at places and we kept coming back here," he said.

"It's dusty," Jones acknowledged. "But I think once it gets done and laid out, it won't be as bad."

KMS also has plans to build a 200-acre business park, but Strott said the future market will determine what gets built there. He also said he is not worried about the future of Odenton's Town Center, 218 acres opposite Seven Oaks that could include cinemas, office complexes, restaurants and a shopping mall.

The County Council last year imposed growth control laws on the town center property, measures that developers called too restrictive. Seven Oaks officials are scheduled to meet with county planners in the next few months to design the Town Center land.

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