Natives who strayed return to rural charms

NEIGHBORHOOD PROFILE

June 11, 1995|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Sun Staff Writer

Manchester Day, an annual celebration in this Carroll County town, says as much about its way of life as anything else -- like Manchester, the fair is homespun, friendly and unpretentious.

Couples and mothers pushing babies in strollers browse through tag sale items and crafts set on folding tables and tailgates of station wagons, as children ride on brown and white ponies and the Carroll County Cloggers click and tap to country music on a rustic wooden stage.

Theron Geisler, who grew up in Manchester, says he's been coming to Manchester Day, held at the end of May, for as long as he can remember. The retired Black & Decker employee enjoys "looking for antiques and things" and taking in the country hospitality he's grown accustomed to in Manchester.

"It's quiet and peaceful here. There's not much crime," he says. "It's a nice place to live."

Residents like Manchester's small-town atmosphere and beautiful countryside, which lures back many natives who had tried living elsewhere. Frani Woodson, who grew up just outside town, moved to nearby Littlestown, Pa., but returned a few weeks ago because she missed her hometown.

"The rent's higher here, but I think it's worth it," says Ms. Woodson, who works for Carroll County Foods in New Windsor. "I wanted to be closer to my family and closer to work. And it's just nicer here. It's prettier and it's friendlier. To me, it's home."

The town of 3,000, which is two miles top to bottom and half that size at its widest point, is surrounded by tree-covered, rolling hills, fields of corn and soybeans, and old barns and farmhouses set far off the road.

Along several routes leading into town, however, new homes have sprung up. Their owners were attracted by large lots and breathtaking vistas from their front porches and decks. But these new homes, along with two subdivisions in town, have sparked Manchester's biggest controversy.

"People say, 'I came up here to get away from all that,' " says Mayor Elmer C. Lippy, referring to urban congestion and suburban sprawl. "The people who just came in really want to slam the door shut."

The "growth issue" is bigger than Manchester, of course. Across Carroll County, as well as other rural communities, the dilemma of how to accommodate growth without destroying the qualities that attracted people in the first place faces many a town council and mayor.

Mayor Lippy, a lifelong resident, says Manchester is "handling growth the best we can with the tools we have." Blocking growth outright is almost impossible, he says, since Carroll County's master plan calls for development near "population centers" to avoid sprawl across agricultural areas.

Within these parameters, however, the towns must use adequate facilities legislation more effectively, he says, to assure that developers are helping to pay for needed infrastructure, such as roads, schools and water and sewer.

In Manchester, the most attractive qualities to new buyers are the countryside, low crime rates and affordable single-family homes. Developments include modest to midsize homes, which young families can afford, real estate agents say.

"It's an affordable house in the country with the amenities of a city," says Bob Hodgkiss, a Long and Foster agent selling homes at the Blevins Claim subdivision. "The price of the home is dictated by lot cost and, fortunately, Manchester is still a good buy."

Blevins Claim will include 164 homes on quarter-acre lots when finished, selling for the low $120,000s to about $160,000. The developer opted for smaller lots to provide "clustered" open space within the community, Mr. Hodgkiss says.

People looking to move into the community are mostly Manchester residents, many of whom bought in the 1980s subdivision Whispering Valley, where houses resell for about $110,000 to $120,000.

Mr. Hodgkiss says people moving to Carroll County from Baltimore or other counties tend to want bigger lots, of an acre or more.

Subdivisions with smaller lots appeal mostly to people relocating within Manchester.

"This is a move-up community," he says of Blevins Claim. "People like the area and the schools and they want to stay here, but maybe want a little more space."

Manchester's other subdivision under construction is Manchester Farms, which will include 360 homes on third- and half-acre lots when completed. Sixty Cape Cods, ranchers and Colonials have already been built in the community and houses sell for about $120,000 to $160,000. And in Park Avenue Estates, where about 40 new units were built, houses sell for up to $180,000.

Crossroads of Indian trails

Founded in 1765 and incorporated in 1834, Manchester was at the crossroads of two Indian trails, one connecting Baltimore with Hanover, Pa., and the other connecting the Potomac and Susquehanna rivers. The route to Hanover became the first public road in Carroll County and its importance as a main thoroughfare is why Manchester grew as a town.

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