Rural area can draw a crowd


June 05, 1994|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Sun Staff Writer

For the people of Kingsville, the meeting of Belair, Jerusalem and Bradshaw Roads and Sunshine Avenue is the center of the civilized -- rural -- world as they know it.

"Kingsville is close and it's country," says Mary Jo Button, a real estate agent and past vice president of the 400-member Greater Kingsville Civic Association.

In Baltimore County's Master Plan, the guide to development, Kingsville's 10 square miles are labeled a "rural village" with only limited development allowed compared with nearby Hereford, considered a "rural center," where more development can occur.

Kingsville residents say they have been saved from the suburban sprawl of Fallston and Perry Hall because Kingsville lies beyond the URDL, or urban-rural demarcation line, the limit of metropolitan water or sewer service, and because Gunpowder State Park forms a natural buffer north, east and south.

Kingsville's pastoral ambience -- despite a building spurt of what one critic calls "McMansions" -- make it one of the most popular and desirable locations in northeastern Baltimore County, according to Ms. Button and Harry Sanders, a Kingsville native who teaches school and sells real estate on the side.

"It has proximity to the centers without being one," says John B. Gontrum, 42, a lawyer and developer whose own 190-acre family farm is in the final stages of development for new housing.

However, because development is limited and there is little turnover of houses, it is relatively difficult to find a place there, say real estate people. Mr. Sanders says few building sites remain and, according to the Multiple Listing Service, only 36 houses have been sold in the last two years. Ms. Button says 37 houses are on the market now, with an average asking price of $264,452.

"I'm always getting calls from parents who say their children want to come back to Kingsville, and I don't have much to offer them," Mr. Sanders says.

"When we have a listing in Kingsville, the phone jumps off the hook, and that's not so in other areas," says Ms. Button, a native of Highlandtown who moved to Kingsville 16 years ago. An open house in Kingsville usually attracts 20 to 30 prospective buyers compared with 5 or 10 in most other areas, she says.

Mr. Sanders says Kingsville includes a few developments along Jerusalem Road across the Gunpowder in Harford County, which annexed the area many years ago. This includes the Gunpowder Valley Country Club, which offers three swimming pools and 15 tennis courts, along with a fishing lake, in an enclave surrounded by thick woods.

Homes currently on the market range from $115,000 for a two-bedroom cottage on Belair Road to $399,500 for a six-bedroom, five-bath 200-year-old colonial on Glenbauer Road, the original house on what is now a farm undergoing development.

Zoning requirements in the area mandate a minimum of 1 acre per lot, and a developer seldom gets more than four lots from a 10-acre tract, Mr. Sanders says.

Kingsville is one of the county's oldest settlements and boasts a range of buildings from log cabins to stone farmhouses built in the 18th- and 19th-centuries. Nearly every sect is represented by a church within easy distance, Ms. Button says. "It's God's country."

Its more recent history began as families from East Baltimore and Eastern Baltimore County started moving north.

In the older areas of Kingsville, the housing trends are clear: brick Cape Cods of the 1940s are followed by the boom of ranchers and split-levels of the 1950s to 1970s. Older areas are also marked by developed trees and shrubbery, while the newer developments have a naked look that will only change with time.

Most of the houses in Old Kingsville are on half-acre lots while the newest lots are a minimum of 1 acre and many are much larger, says Mr. Gontrum, who heads the civic association's committee that is drafting a Kingsville Plan for county officials.

The plan will state how Kingsville residents view their community and present a general statement of what they see for its future and what they don't want to see, he says.

A generational change is in progress, says Mr. Sanders, with young families snapping up the older homes as quickly as they come on the market, usually because their owners have moved to retirement homes or have died. Such houses usually sell for about $150,000, he says. "There is a nice mix of blue-collar people and professional and business people," he says.

Current development focuses on custom-built houses on large lots on former farms. Critic Douglas M. Behr, a landscape architect and civic association officer, calls them "McMansions," which cost anywhere up to $1 million. "So much of the housing is being built for people who want to say, 'Look, we've achieved.' New development and new residences should blend in with the community, not stand out," Mr. Behr says. "Growth is inevitable and we're not opposed to all development, but to insensitive development."

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