Old turkey farm lays golden egg Pasadena tract becomes area's hottest housing development.

November 22, 1998|By Robert Nusgart | Robert Nusgart,SUN REAL ESTATE EDITOR

Years ago, they flocked by the hundreds to the roadside stand known as Schramm's Turkey Farm, elbowing into the main building the day before Thanksgiving to pick up their freshly killed holiday bird.

Today, there isn't a turkey in sight -- unless you count the cupola, where an iron figurine is perched upon the welcoming gatehouse to Farmington Village, a new development that has people hurrying back to the old Schramm Farm for a different reason.

What was once a Pasadena landmark -- bordered by Mountain Road, Catherine Avenue and Routes 100 and 648 -- has evolved into one of the hottest-selling developments this year in the Baltimore metropolitan region.

Since its opening in February, the community of townhouses and single-family detached homes has been selling at a quicker monthly pace than any other development in the region, according to Meyers Housing Data Reports, a publication that tracks and analyzes new-home construction.

Faster than Owings Mills New Town in Baltimore County.

Faster than Piney Orchard, Seven Oaks or South River Colony in Anne Arundel County.

Faster than Spenceola Farms and Harford Town in Harford County.

At Farmington Village -- with 171 units sold of a planned 428 -- it's not silly to say that buyers are gobbling them up.

"We hit the market with exactly what people were looking for at the right time," said developer Gary Koch, whose company -- Koch Homes -- is building 119 single-family homes. Joining Koch is Ryan Homes, with 86 single-family homes; Ryland Homes, 85 townhouses; and Grayson Homes, 50 single-family and 107 townhouses.

"There really is no other community in this area -- I mean northern Anne Arundel County -- that offers anything comparable to what we are offering," Koch said.

But the success that the development has been enjoying can only be tempered by seeing why there is a Farmington Village at all.

Tucked in the northern sector of the development is a 20-acre parcel with a barn and a new five-bedroom, five-bathroom nondescript home -- the Schramm residence. It's what the family kept of the 213-acre farm after it was sold to Koch in 1993.

The matriarch -- Evelyn, 93, lives there with her children Louis, 72, William, 71, Emma, 70, and a cousin, also named Evelyn, 53.

"It has taken 13 people over three generations and the sale of the farm to get this house," said Emma Schramm. "We could not build this house with over what we made farming. It had to take the sale of this farm, the money from the farm to build it."

The Schramms never envisioned selling the farm, which came from land purchased by Emma Schramm's grandfather in 1909. She spoke fondly of how he first tried to farm vegetables and raise and sell flowers before the family turned to raising turkeys in 1944. In fact, there was a real disdain for real estate people and developers.

"I just say that it takes a good farmer to tell a real estate man to go jump in a lake, when you could earn more in interest than you can make on farming," she said in a 1991 interview with The Sun.

At that time, the Schramms were in the process of taking their farm out of the Arminger Agricultural Land Preservation District, which they had joined in 1980.

They made the decision after realizing that their finances would be devastated because of estate taxes. As each sibling died off, the others would have to carry the tax burden. To protect themselves, they had to sacrifice the farm.

"It would have cost $250,000 in taxes when the first one died," Emma Schramm said in a recent interview. "That would only be on one-quarter of the property. Then the next time it would have been more and when the last one died, someone would have had to pay on the whole thing. So you could have paid out more in taxes than what the place was worth."

After the County Council passed a bill in August 1991 allowing the Schramms to withdraw the farm from the preservation district, there was talk of the county purchasing the site for a criminal detention center. When that was rejected, a golf course was considered, but that notion also died.

That kind of talk and stress "scared us enough" that Emma Schramm let it be known the family wanted to sell, and they got a real estate agent to contact Koch.

"We figured this would be the best for the community," Emma Schramm said. "I don't think they wanted a jail and I don't think they wanted [subsidized] housing so I consider we did the community a favor [although] a lot of people don't think so."

Koch did all of his negotiating with Emma Schramm, who, he said, was "very tough but very fair."

"We were both good to our word," Koch said. "You always felt you could be totally forthright with her and she felt the same way with us.

"I think in the beginning there was a lot of concern as to what was going to be built. And I think after she got comfortable with us and what we were going to do, she then had a comfort level and was then able to allay lot of concerns and fears about what would happen.

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