Many end their hunt at Dorsey's Search


September 30, 2001|By Diane Mikulis | Diane Mikulis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Steve Van Till decided to move from Montgomery County 18 months ago, he knew exactly where in Howard County he wanted to move - the Village of Dorsey's Search in Columbia.

Van Till had lived in other parts of Columbia and in nearby Ellicott City, but he knew Dorsey's Search offered what he was looking for.

"I pretty much set my sights on Dorsey's Search," he said. "The trees are just beautiful."

Built in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Dorsey's Search is the second-newest of Columbia's villages and also the second-smallest with 7,300 residents. The village lies along Columbia Road near U.S. 29 and is bisected by Route 108, forming two distinct neighborhoods - Fairway Hills south of Route 108 with a Columbia ZIP code and Dorsey Hall to the north, which has an Ellicott City postal zone.

The old Dorsey Hall manor house, for which the neighborhood was named, was built in the early 1770s by the Dorsey family. The home is on Dorsey Hall Drive and is open as a decorator show house by Historic Ellicott City Inc. The home will be converted to offices.

Dorsey Hall comprises single-family homes, townhouses, the village center and community association, retirement communities and professional office buildings.

Further south in Fairway Hills are hundreds of condominiums, townhouses and apartments arranged around the Fairway Hills golf course, formerly the Allview Golf Course.

Moved in 1985

Carol Arscott, her husband and daughter moved to Dorsey Hall in 1985. They now have two children in high school and plan to stay put for a while.

"It's been very stable here," Arscott commented. "Everyone in our cul-de-sac is original." She added that some homes on other streets have turned over and new families have moved in, keeping the neighborhood populated with children of all ages.

"The baby sitters our kids had are now getting married, and our kids are baby-sitting," she said.

The neighborhood has not been without change, however.

"The biggest change that this neighborhood experienced was the change in school district from Centennial [High School] to Wilde Lake," she said. Arscott added that even though it was traumatic for some residents when it happened in the early 1990s, most residents are pleased with Wilde Lake.

Jean Marlow is also a longtime resident, moving there with her husband 18 years ago. She said that they bought their three-bedroom home thinking they wouldn't be there very long - her husband's company frequently transferred employees. But the transfer never happened, and the house seemed to get smaller with the addition of two children. Five years ago, the Marlows considered moving to a larger home elsewhere.

Disappointing search

"What we found were bigger homes on postage-stamp-sized lots," she said.

They decided to stay put and enjoy their large yard and the convenience of the location. Like other Columbia villages, Dorsey's Search has a network of walking and biking paths, tot lots and a swimming pool. The Marlows are within walking distance of all of them and the village center. They also have easy access to major highways such as U.S. 29, Interstate 70 and Interstate 95.

Greg Kinnear, a Realtor with RE/Max Advantage of Columbia, said homes in Dorsey's Search move quickly, often selling for more than the asking price. In early September, he listed a townhouse that received three contracts within a few days. Another Realtor with RE/Max Advantage, Pat McKenna, sold the home for several thousand dollars above the list price.

Kinnear said there is a wide range of prices in the village. Condominiums start in the $70,000s for one bedroom and go up to $130,000 for larger units. Townhouses range from $150,000 to $230,000. Single-family homes, which rarely come on the market, start in the mid-$200,000s, and there are some in the mid-$300,000s and higher.

`Small-town feeling'

In addition to being a pretty place to live, Deborah Seate, the chairwoman of the village board, said, the village offers privacy and safety. "It sort of has that small-town feeling," Seate said.

She said the only key issue the board is examining is traffic safety. "We have a traffic action committee to look at traffic and see if there are problems," she said. "There's been more commercial development on Dorsey Hall Drive, and Columbia Road is much busier."

The village board makes extensive use of volunteers on a variety of other committees and projects dealing with architectural standards, senior citizens, representation on the Columbia Council and maintaining facilities such as the swimming pool and tot lot.

"The board is trying to institute new programs to get the residents involved," said Jackie Felker, the village manager. At its headquarters at Linden Hall in the village center, the village board regularly sponsors coffees for residents, socials for seniors and a community open house.

Felker also said that the board offers grants to pay for landscaping as part of a cul-de-sac revitalization program and reimbursement for certain expenses associated with resident block parties.

Dorsey's Search

ZIP codes: 21042, 21044

Commute to downtown Baltimore: 25 minutes

Public schools: Northfield, Talbot Springs and Thunderhill elementary schools, Dunloggin and Wilde Lake middle schools, Wilde Lake High School

Shopping: Dorsey's Search Village Center, Long Gate Center, The Mall in Columbia

Homes on market: 5

Average listing price: $171,575*

Average sale price: $170,396*

Average days on market: 18

Sale price as percentage of listing price: 99.31%*Based on 87 sales in the past 12 months, compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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