Outer areas get wealth of residents

Money: The relocation of mostly two-income families is changing the face and tax rolls of communities across Maryland.

September 26, 1999|By John Murphy | John Murphy,SUN STAFF

The signs of change are everywhere: In Westminster, shoppers jam the huge, warehouse-style stores that are springing up on once-quiet streets. North of Bel Air, polo matches are drawing more and more participants. On the Eastern Shore, aging grocery stores are stocking their shelves with pricey organic vegetables and gourmet foods.

Families moving to the outer suburbs are fueling a tremendous shift of wealth in the Baltimore region. That shift is fattening tax rolls and creating vast new shopping areas in once-rural counties while leaving older communities gasping for air.

The rush of dollars to the outlying suburbs -- where new residents earn, on average, more than those who are moving out -- is staggering. In Carroll County, they accounted for an increase of $315 million in personal income from 1994 to 1997, according to a Sun analysis of Internal Revenue Service data.

In Harford County, new residents generated an increase of $208 million during that period; in Queen Anne's County, $132 million.

Anne Arundel and Howard are experiencing similar gains, as the young, affluent middle class moves up to suburban colonials.

While suburban growth has been well chronicled, the shift of wealth it represents has received less attention, though its impact is profound.

"I have defi nitely seen a lot of changes. More luxury housing. More two-income families," says David Wolff, owner of the Fine Grind, a gourmet coffee shop that opened two years ago in Bel Air.

"When the demographics changed, all the chains came up. More cars. More restaurants. There used to be a handful to go to; now I've only been to a handful because there are so many."

All this new money comes at a price: New residents in outlying suburbs increase demand for roads, schools, recreation programs, libraries, trash pickup, police and fire protection.

For the communities losing wealth, the problems are greater. Baltimore City witnessed a net exodus of more than 24,000 taxpayers between 1994 and 1997 and a net loss of annual personal income of $1.2 billion. In Baltimore County, the loss was $404 million.

Both localities are struggling to revive aging neighborhoods, combat crime and improve schools to stop residents from leaving for the exurbs. New, upscale homes in the Honeygo community are Baltimore County's latest effort to stem the flow of residents to Carroll and Harford counties.

The Sun's analysis is based on migration data compiled by the Internal Revenue Service, which tracks each year the location of taxpayers who move. Although the figures exclude some taxpayers -- first-time filers, newlyweds and low-income residents who did not make enough to require a tax return -- they offer some of the best insights into how the region's demographics have changed since the 1990 Census.

The people on the move are mostly couples like Frederick and Laine Rosewag, both 28. Frederick, a computer hardware salesman, and Laine, a market analyst for Sweetheart Cup Inc., have a combined household income of about $100,000.

After meeting at the University of Maryland, College Park, the young couple lived in Federal Hill and later moved to a three-bedroom townhouse in the New Town development in Owings Mills.

But after three years there, they wanted a larger home.

"We got greedy, and we wanted the bigger house before we had kids," Frederick said. After several months searching new developments, they settled last fall on a $252,322 four-bedroom colonial with cream siding and green shutters in the Edgewood development of Eldersburg, in southern Carroll County.

"We looked in Owings Mills, but we couldn't find what we wanted. In Baltimore County, the homes are built right on top of each other. We couldn't find a community," said Laine.

The lower housing prices attracted them, too.

"The price difference was $20,000 to $30,000," Frederick said.

Business follows people

As the Rosewags and other well-heeled residents pour into the suburbs, businesses are quick to follow.

Shopping centers have sprouted on farmland and woodland along Route 26, catering to families like the Rosewags; Eldersburg has four supermarkets, and shoppers can have their pick of pizza parlors and video rental stores.

In another fast-growing section of Carroll, along Route 140 in Westminster, more than a half-dozen national restaurant chains have opened during the past two years.

Developers say the demographics are right: two-income families with disposable income and not much time to cook. Even the old-timers have felt the impact.

A Twin Kiss ice cream stand, founded in 1957 at Route 140 and Sullivan Road, was popular for its simple menu of soft ice cream, burgers and $5 dinners.

But with affluent families moving to the Westminster area every year, owner Gary Lane realized it was time to compete with the newer restaurants.

"We researched Carroll County. Most of the people buying the homes were two-income couples," he said. "People were expecting more than a country hangout. We had to grow up or get out."

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