Rural 'island' thrives even as zoning changes Young professionals, empty-nesters move into homes on big lots

Neighborhood Profile

March 17, 1996|By Jill L. Kubatko | Jill L. Kubatko,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

West Friendship, known for its rolling hills, pristine farms and fairground, has a blend of ingredients many families of the 1990s are seeking: more space, good schools, short commutes and safe neighborhoods.

Those who originally settled the area and their descendants see a change in the landscape, as a new generation of young professionals and empty-nesters move into this small Howard County community.

Trip Wright, 28, with his parents and four siblings, left Catonsville in 1981 to live in a two-story brick Colonial on Wellworth Way.

"West Friendship is almost an island in the middle of Ellicott City and Lisbon," Mr. Wright said. "Ellicott City sprung up with Pizza Huts and the like and for some reason the development skipped us and moved over to Lisbon.

"But with the zoning changes, the area is getting more and more diluted, because not all the people moving in are country people," he said.

The residential boom is attributed to the new zoning laws and West Friendship's proximity to Interstate 70 to the north and Route 32, which bisects the community.

The old rural district zoning allowed homes to be built on three-acre lots. In the fall of 1992, two replacement residential categories rural residential and rural conservation were introduced, allowing homes to be built on one to three acres, with the remaining land going into the Agricultural Land Preservation Program.

Eight properties are registered in the preservation program, totaling approximately 1,000 acres.

With no real "town" and only two small strip shopping centers, West Friendship's boundary stretches from I-70 to the north, south to Burnt Woods, east to Sand Hill, to McKendree Road in the west.

The Satorys moved in November from North Potomac to Fox Valley, the community's largest cluster-lot development off Route 32, seeking "more land and a sense of community."

"We looked for months for a new home," said Susan Satory, a former teacher who researched the area.

She and her husband, John, have four children from preschool through the fifth grade. Mrs. Satory checked the schools, looked into the area's history and clocked the commuting time. Her husband owns two service stations, in Rockville and College Park.

"We looked in Montgomery and Howard counties and ended up focusing on western Howard because we wanted some land and the other areas were pretty developed," Mrs. Satory said. "I really love it here; out back these trees and land will never be developed."

"When they were developing the three-acre lots, it cut into farmland, making the areas too small to farm. People like the one-acre lots and you still preserve the character of the area," said Doug Magill, a broker with Home Builders Realty Services, representing Fox Valley, off Route 32 south of Route 144.

Of the 100 lots available in Fox Valley, 27 have sold since it broke ground 14 months ago. Prices for the custom-built 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot luxury homes range from $400,000 to $500,000.

Other new developments, such as McKendree Estates and Yardley Hunt Estates, are in the same price range and offer the same luxury living. The average price of 15 dwellings sold in West Friendship in 1995 was $325,975.

"We get an eclectic group, those coming from Columbia, Ellicott City or Silver Spring, who want more space.

"They typically are professionals and like a lot of amenities designed for the family and user-friendly," said Kathy Bennett, a sales assistant for Selfridge Builders, one of six builders in Fox Valley.

The mostly rural landscape with winding roads, red barns and farmhouses also has older subdivisions off two main roads: Routes 144 (Frederick Road) and Route 32.

Developments such as Sand Acres, Rover Mill Estates, Friendship Manor, Wynfield and Buttercup Estates sprung up in the mid-1970s and consist of 20 to 40 homes.

As in some subdivisions where one or two styles of homes can be found, these neighborhoods are dotted with a mix of ranchers, Colonials and contemporary homes.

West Friendship is also still home to those who settled the land years ago: the Ridgelys, Pfefferkorns, Slacks, Moxleys and Days are just a few of the families who have stayed in the area for generations.

James R. Moxley Jr. lives on the farm where he was born 65 years ago. The 203-acre "Dawn Acres" Angus cattle farm is across from the Howard County Fairgrounds on Frederick Road. Mr. Moxley's family has been in Howard County since the 1800s.

His son, James "Rob" Moxley III, 35, of Glenwood, is chairman of the county advisory board of the Agricultural Land Preservation Program and president of the fairgrounds. He oversaw the fair's 50th anniversary last summer. His father was president during the fair's 25th anniversary.

Both Moxleys started their fair careers as youths showing their livestock through 4-H clubs. Today, about 60 children participate in two 4-H clubs in West Friendship.

"It's still fairly rural in a way," the elder Mr. Moxley said.

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