Secret garden place fending off sprawl World rapping at door of Columbia Hills- Meadowbrook Farms

Neighborhood Profile

September 22, 1996|By Jill L. Kubatko | Jill L. Kubatko,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The community of Columbia Hills-Meadowbrook Farms, graced by mature trees, manicured lawns, flower gardens and rolling hills -- offers little hint of what surrounds it.

The peaceful Howard County neighborhood always has been a well-kept secret, but the outside world is rapping at its door.

It is an island in a sea of change, nearly surrounded by highways -- Route 100 to the northeast, U.S. 29 to the west and Route 108 to the southwest -- and a swirl of development.

Residents have had to contend with the construction of Route 100 -- which once threatened to divide the community physically, until homeowners protested -- and the widening of U.S. 29. They successfully fought a Columbia Association proposal for a roads maintenance facility near the edge of the community.

But somehow, Columbia Hills-Meadowbrook Farms does not have the feel of suburban sprawl.

People who live in Columbia Hills, the older of the two developments, and Meadowbrook Farms hail the community's privacy, convenience to Baltimore, Columbia, Ellicott City and Washington, and the friendly neighbors.

"It's the feeling of a neighborhood in the old sense. It's always been a community," said Jeanette Kissel, who, with husband Jerry and daughter Jill, lives in Meadowbrook Farms. "We have always been so isolated, everyone knows everyone."

"We like the fact we are a well-kept secret," said Annette Flatley, who moved to Columbia Hills 29 years ago.

She said the area has such a low crime rate that the community police liaison has practically nothing to do. "The community is so nice; people just want to stay here," Flatley said. "It's just a wonderful place to raise kids."

A stone "Columbia Hills" sign marks the entrance to the community at Edgar Road. Until June, when Meadowbrook Road was opened and linked the two main, winding residential drives, it was the only entrance. But visitors may get lost in the maze of cul-de-sac courts and dead-end streets.

"We can all recognize a stranger on these roads," joked Jeanette Kissel, an academic adviser at Howard Community College. "Most who drive through are either lost or residents."

To get to the Kissel home, a driver must make as many as five lefts and four right turns.

Colonials, ranchers and split foyers with pastel siding in blues, greens and yellows, brick facades or stone fronts line the sidewalk-less streets. The homes are on lots covering a quarter to a third of an acre, and are landscaped with tall pines, maples and oaks, flower gardens and shrubbery. Columbia Hills' 159 homes have three to four bedrooms, while Meadowbrook Farms' 83 residences have four to five, with each featuring formal living and dining rooms, large kitchens and family rooms.

The communities combined have three home sales pending and four active listings. Eleven homes have been sold in the past 12 months at an average price of $182,700.

"In general the average is higher," said Stephen Leslie, a Realtor with Long and Foster and resident of Meadowbrook Farms. "Most homes tend to be in the $180s and $190s."

"The area is very stable. The lot sizes tend to be much larger than standard in the newer neighborhoods. As compared in Columbia, a quarter-acre or fifth-acre is more of a standard in lot size for this price range house.

"The homes seem to hold their value. It's a fairly light turnover for a community. One of the problems with some neighborhoods is you get so many homes on the market at one time. We have not seen that kind of mass selling here. The neighborhood is staggered in age in terms of the housing and its residents."

The community has a mix of homeowners, said Jerry Kissel, who is president of the Columbia Hills/Meadowbrook Farms Community Association. The Kissels have lived in Meadowbrook Farms for 17 years.

"It's a diverse group, old families, new families, elderly to young. It's pretty stable for a community in Howard County," said Kissel, an engineer at Fort Meade. "It's a mix of professionals, educators, engineers, professors, business owners, writers, Beth Steel. We have white-collar and blue-collar homeowners."

Columbia Hills may have gotten its name from a post office off Columbia Pike, combined with its rolling hills. It was built in the mid-1950s by the Maryland Housing Corp., preceding by a decade the birth nearby of the planned town of Columbia.

Within the community on Sybert Drive is the historic "Bethesda" mansion. It was built in the 1770s by Michael and Mary Dorsey Pue, who owned about 300 acres -- land she inherited from her father, Caleb Dorsey, an ironmaster in Elkridge. It was named "Bethesda," which means "healing," because Michael Pue was a doctor, as were a son and five grandsons.

The grandsons inherited the home and enlarged the property to 1,200 acres. The home stayed in the Pue family and several additions were built before Henry Hill Pue, suffering financial difficulties, sold it and 237 acres to Thomas Leishear in 1859 for $14,232.

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