For 'capers,' mixture of quaint and grand fits Eclectic community has small homes, large estates

Neighborhood Profile

October 26, 1997|By Bonita Formwalt | Bonita Formwalt,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Residents of the Anne Arundel Community of Cape St. Claire occasionally refer to themselves as "capers." A term of affection, it is usually accompanied by a laugh that belies the pride they have in their community and their commitment to maintain the charm of their neighborhood.

Cape St. Claire is on the Broadneck Peninsula, where the Magothy River joins the Chesapeake Bay. It distinguishes itself from the surrounding developments with a personality that comes with the passage of time, not a two-car garage and floor-to-ceiling windows.

This is a neighborhood with a comfortable mixture of the quaint and the grand. Starter homes lie next to family estates, adding layer upon layer to the uniqueness of the community.

What is "average" in this neighborhood is hard to determine.

"Average is kind of misleading because the community is so eclectic," said Mona LaCovey, a Realtor specializing in sales in Cape St. Claire. "You've got everything here from an inexpensive, little one-bedroom summer cottage to a four-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bath colonial."

A review of recent sales found waterfront properties going for $163,900 to $536,000. Nonwaterfront properties sell in the $79,000 to $199,999 range.

While many homes were originally constructed in the early 1950s as summer escapes from the city, improved transportation eventually allowed year-round living and a steady growth in the population that leveled out in the late 1970s.

"Over the years families grew and people added to their houses. Each one is different. You never have to worry about accidentally going into the wrong house," said Louis Biondi, a longtime resident and community activist.

Biondi and his wife, Sharon, came to the cape 17 years ago. They were seeking a home and a neighborhood where they could raise their three children. Cape St. Claire's waterfront impressed them along with its strong sense of community.

"We were looking for a community that offered diversity," Biondi said. "We liked the heterogeneous aspects of the area. There are Hispanics, African-Americans and white families living here. Our kids play together in the same sports leagues, go to school together."

Residents acknowledge that there are regulations that are necessary to preserve the appearance of the community, which is governed by deeded covenants.

Achieving a balance between the past and the future is the focus of the Cape St. Claire Improvement Association.

What began as the Cape St. Clair Social Club back in 1949 has evolved into the current improvement association. The association serves as a parent organization, overseeing everything from the annual strawberry festival to parking permits to a long-range planning committee to assure appropriate growth.

A portion of the association's financing is derived from a supplemental property tax approved by residents eight years ago.

Each household pays about $45 annually in addition to an annual $10 maintenance fee.

The proximity of the Magothy River also provides opportunities for fishing, boating and swimming. The improvement association offers sailing lessons for young people.

"We have four nice sandy beaches where you can put a lawn chair in the water and spend the day," said Biondi, a past president of the improvement association.

"In the summer, some families pack up and go to the beach for a month. Our kids are already there," said Biondi, who said she believes the beach life changes the children.

"They're competitive when they need to be but there's also a little 'California' attitude there. It's as if they know how to relax," said Biondi.

Children are the top priority in most communities and the cape is no exception. Cape St. Claire's students consistently rank at the top on academic tests and in competitive sports.

Mary Lamb, a traffic engineer with Anne Arundel County, finds the cape a caring, safe place where she and husband, James, are raising a 6-year-old daughter, Shelby. The couple moved to Cape St. Claire almost 10 years ago.

"It's a large community but there is the sense that it's smaller. It's as though it's enclosed," she said.

"There are so many things kids can do here without traveling too far," she said.

Shelby enjoys lessons at a dance studio in the Cape St. Claire Shopping Center. She also participated in the soccer program offered by the Cape St. Claire Recreation Association.

The association's playing fields are across the street from the community shopping center. With a membership of 700 families, the association offers youth football, cheerleading, lacrosse, soccer, softball, wrestling, basketball and baseball.

The convenience of so many after-school activities is an advantage to the families, most of whom must travel long distances to their jobs.

A consultant with the federal government, Biondi travels an hour every morning to his job in Rockville. A commute into Baltimore is 50 minutes.

"Sure, it's a long drive," Biondi said. "But it's the quality of life when you get home that matters."

Apparently that's a quality found in abundance on the cape.

Cape St. Claire

Population: 7,878 (1990 census)

Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 50 minutes

Shopping: Cape St. Claire Shopping Center; Assorted strip shopping centers, including factory outlets on U.S. 50.

Public schools: Cape St. Claire Elementary, Magothy River Middle School, Broadneck High School, Anne Arundel Community College.

Points of interest: Cape St. Claire Improvement Association beaches and parks; Sandy Point State Park; Broadneck Park; Broadneck Sports Arena (U.S. 50).

ZIP code: 21401

Average price of a single-family waterfront home: $341,719*

Average price of a single-family inland home: $129,615*

*Based on six waterfront and 73 inland sales during the last 12 nTC months by the Metropolitan Regional Information System.

Pub Date: 10/26/97

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