Some like it small along the Patapsco


November 20, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Small-town ambience drew the Adams family to the town of Sykesville, 2 square miles along the Patapsco River in Carroll County.

"You don't move here to change the town," says Garth Adams. "You move here because of the way it is."

Nearly three years ago, Garth and Carolynne Adams sold their home in Columbia and moved to Carroll County.

"We thought we would live in Columbia forever," says Mrs.

Adams. "But we missed the simplicity of a place where everybody knows each other."

The couple always wanted an older home, which they could renovate. They found one in Sykesville, a town that mirrored their image of the ideal place to raise their three children.

They bought an 87-year-old house with a wraparound porch and a spacious yard full of mature trees. Since they moved in, the refurbishing has been constant but rewarding, they said.

"Our 10-year renovation plan has now become a 20-year plan," Mrs. Adams says with a laugh.

Both soon immersed themselves in the town activities. He ran successfully for a seat on the Town Council and she serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission.

The family is typical of those moving to the town built in thPatapsco River Valley early last century, says James L. Schumacher, town manager.

That same country charm still combines today with steep hills, rolling parks and history rich in railroad memorabilia.

"Families are moving here for the good quality of life," Mr. Schumacher says. "We have no hint of any competition between old-timers and newcomers. We have so much community work to do, everyone seems happy to volunteer."

About 1,200 homes in new developments and neighborhoods with turn-of-the-century grace are luring many young families to the South Carroll town.

"People think of Sykesville for its older, historic area, but there are many new homes, too," said Bob Hodgkiss, an agent for Long and Foster in Eldersburg. "It is a nice town, quaint and quiet." Older homes sell for about $120,000, while newer homes run about $200,000, Mr. Hodgkiss says.

Two years ago, the Town Council adopted Small Town Planning Guidelines, designed to regulate development and maintain the small-town flavor. Two new subdivisions are following those regulations as they add some 400 homes at the west end of town.

Shannon Run and Hawk Ridge Farms each have several models of larger homes available on quarter-acre and larger lots. The developments surround open space and community areas with play space for children and hiking trails.

"The builders are community-oriented," Mr. Schumacher says.

Harry Rosenthal, co-owner of Preakness Homes, builder of Shannon Run, says the subdivision is the company's fastest growing and is drawing "first move-up buyers" to traditional three- and four-bedroom homes.

"We are attracting young families with children, who want more space," he says.

The town also requires developers to dedicate land to its park projects. The most recent result is a linear park with a 2-mile trail to the Patapsco River, which flows along the town's border with Howard County.

"We have the quaintness of an older town yet the open space othe surroundings," says Mr. Rosenthal.

At the southern edge of town, the county just dedicated $H Freedom Park, with five baseball diamonds and two multipurpose fields. Sykesville has been working with Howard County to develop the land along the Patapsco River into another park.

"We are determined to make the river park happen," Mr. Schumacher says. "We see canoeing and rafting and a great recreation area within a stone's throw of town."

He called the town parklands "second to none. We have createour own landmarks. We are in a municipality, that doesn't look like one."

Nearby, residents have Piney Run park and lake and the Hugg-Thomas Wildlife Refuge.

Mr. Schumacher sees little new major construction projects once the two developments are complete.

"We will be built out, with little more residential area to annex," he says. "We are surrounded by parklands."

He expects the population, now at 3,000, to hit a maximum of about 4,500 before the turn of the century.

Rosenthal says Sykesville's location off Route 32 is drawing people from Howard County and the Washington area. The town is about 6 miles from Route 70. Barring traffic jams, commuting time to Baltimore is about 35 minutes and about 45 minutes to Washington.

Mr. Schumacher says about half the town residents drive 4minutes to work.

The State Highway Administration plans extensive improvements next spring to Route 32, which it calls the Sykesville bypass. The highway intersects the town at four streets. Improvements include turn lanes and bolstered road shoulders.

While Sykesville has no plans to add more residential land, the town would like to annex more business or industrial property, if possible. It also hopes to help the owner develop Raincliffe Center, a 32-acre site, into an industrial center.

With money from state grants, the town has revitalized its Main Street, 10 years ago nearly vacant and now completely occupied.

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