Country-friendly, laid-back trendy

Neighborhood profile: Dayton

Dayton offers charm, convenience and nice people

January 16, 2000|By Diane Mikulis | Diane Mikulis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Tony and Kathy Kruszewski relocated from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., last fall, they settled on the quiet Howard County neighborhood of Dayton for its country setting with its rolling hills, open farmland and small-town charm.

But they soon found out that the heart of community was in its residents, who turned out to be the nicest thing about Dayton.

"I'm amazed at how friendly the people are," said Tony Kruszewski. Many of their neighbors embraced the Kruszewskis, stopping by to introduce themselves with gifts of houseplants and homemade brownies. Several also offered the use of their lawn tractors to clean up the leaves in the Kruszewskis' yard.

Kathy Kruszewski said "the old country-type feeling" impressed her the most.

A few weeks after they moved in, she took a flat tire to the gasoline station expecting a long wait. That wasn't the case, however. "The kid fixed it so fast," she recalled.

Both enjoy the proximity to the shopping in Clarksville and to major roads such as Routes 32 and 108. Downtown Columbia is 15 minutes away.

Tony Kruszewski, a branch manager with Orkin Pest Control, commutes 25 miles each way to his office in Baltimore, but says "it's worth the drive for me."

The Kruszewskis settled on their three-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath brick rancher in early November and moved in the next month. They spent December painting, redecorating and otherwise updating the 25-year-old house, which they purchased from the original owners. They noted that many of the neighbors are original owners and have lived there for 20 to 25 years.

Bess Lieberman, an agent with O'Conor, Piper and Flynn ERA, worked with the Kruszewskis for three weeks to find a rancher with some land and privacy. She said not many houses come on the market in Dayton and those that do are usually in the $300,000 to $400,000 range.

"It's not easy to find a house in Dayton on short notice," Lieberman said. It seems that most residents just want to stay put. By her count, only 19 homes were sold in Dayton between March and December last year. Six were new homes on 1- to 4-acre lots and sold for $369,000 to $475,000.

Most of the homebuyers in the last few years, Lieberman said, have been families with young children. "They want the rural setting just outside the conveniences of the busy areas." She added that many come because they are looking for less congestion and good schools.

The hub of the town is Four-Way Stop, where Howard Road intersects Green Bridge Road to the south and Ten Oaks Road to the north. At that point, there are several commercial establishments -- the Crossroads Pub, a gasoline station, a heating and air conditioning business and an equipment-leasing company. Two churches are in downtown Dayton, and the post office sits farther east on Ten Oaks Road.

Just west of the Four-Way Stop is the Quilt Block, a fabric and quilting-supply store. The owner, Diane Janoske, has lived in Dayton 13 years. She moved from Laurel to get more land and a bigger house in a rural area. She said she loves living and operating a business in Dayton and savors "the hometown feeling and knowing people by name."

A 10-year resident, Peter Esseff served as the first president of the Dayton Community Association. He led a successful effort to keep the one-room Dayton Post Office open when the U.S. Postal Service planned to close it several years ago. Last year, the gravel parking lot was paved -- an indication that it will stay open

On the recommendation of his doctor, Esseff moved to Tampa, Fla., last month. He was sad to leave the area and was very touched when some neighbors threw him and his wife a surprise party while they were packing. "These people are more than just friends," he said. "We've become close. The folks out here bring out the best in you."

Each October, the Dayton Community Association sponsors the Dayton Daze parade and celebration. The event was started in 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the opening of the gasoline station in town and to honor its owner, Lenny Hobbs. The parade and party afterward have become the major community spirit event for the residents.

Ted Davis, the current association president, said the organization hopes to add a spring event as well. In addition, the group acts as a watchdog on issues that affect the town. Members are concerned about a planned development for approximately 100 homes near the Triadelphia Reservoir. Davis said residents are worried about the impact the building will have on the watershed and the adequacy of current and new roads to serve the increased population.

"We do not object to development. We do not object to people buying houses in Dayton. We welcome them with open arms," Davis said. "It's just that it has to be done sensibly."

Currently, development in Dayton is on a small scale. Two new subdivisions, Holly Crest and Twist and Turn Estates, will have only nine and 10 homes, respectively.

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