Away from hustle-bustle, you can enjoy the views

Insider's Guide To Millers Island

August 03, 2008|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

With breathtaking views, captivating sunsets and a relaxed way of life, it's easy to see why residents of Millers Island treasure their community.

Situated on a secluded peninsula in southeastern Baltimore County, Millers Island juts out into the water with Back River on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other. State parkland, including a Black Marsh preserve, surrounds the one road that leads to the neighborhood.

"It's quiet. It's tucked away. We don't have the hustle and bustle of an urban area," said Bob Hart, president of the Millers Island Community Association.

In 1971, Hart's family purchased a summer home on Millers Island. He has since made the community his permanent residence.

The many vantage points on the peninsula offer views of Pleasure Island, Hart-Miller Island, the Bay Bridge and Craighill Channel Lower Range Front Light - sometimes affectionately referred to as the Millers Island light.

"Generally, life on Millers Island is very low-key, peaceful and quiet," said Mike Poleski, who owns Bill's Boats with his brother Rob Poleski.

The family business dates back to the 1950s, when it served as a boat-rental facility. Mike Poleski, a lifelong resident, can remember when there were six boatyards on Millers Island. Today his full-scale marina is the only one still in business.

Originally founded as farmland, Millers Island quickly became pristine duck-hunting grounds by the mid-19th century, according to information provided by Teri Rising, a historic preservation planner with Baltimore County. An advertisement in The Sun from Nov. 12, 1856, describes the area as the most desirable ducking point in Maryland.

The community was laid out in 1922. For many years, Millers Island remained mostly a recreational area with summer "shore shacks" for housing. Gradually, many of these homes were replaced with year-round houses. In the 1980s, the arrival of public water and sewer systems helped fuel growth.

Although flooding and standing water left after severe storms are nothing new to hearty Millers Island residents, the neighborhood was devastated by the force of Tropical Storm Isabel in 2003. Many of the homes were condemned after the storm, but have since been replaced with modern three-story structures.

The mix of new and old housing has melded longtime residents with an influx of new homeowners.

"Isabel changed the economy of the island," said Hart.

Housing stock "It's a great little neighborhood. It's very pleasant," said Melvin Knight, a real estate agent with the Wyndhurst office of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, who's familiar with waterfront sales.

Newly built, three-story single-family waterfront homes on Millers Island sell at about $700,000 and above. Older waterfronts can sell for less, while homes not directly on the water typically start at about $300,000.

Knight said the neighborhood has the feel of a fun, waterfront resort. "There's just something about it. It's unique," he added.

Two new developments are planned for the area. At the entrance to Millers Island, the Bauer Farm property includes plans for a 144-unit, mixed residential development with much of the property being retained for preservation and agricultural use.

At the point of Millers Island, where Rum Runners Restaurant operated until Isabel hit, 14 waterfront townhouses are planned.

Kids and schools Edgemere Elementary, Sparrows Point Middle and Sparrows Point High schools serve Millers Island residents. All three schools surpassed state proficiency levels in reading and math and also have met the state's Adequate Yearly Progress mark, a tool used to track academic progress and make accountability decisions. The high school has a graduation rate of 82 percent.

Crime The crime rate is low in the area, according to Bill Toohey, spokesman for the Baltimore County Police Department. "We have no particular crime trends showing up in the community," he said. "People are all concerned for one another, and all watch out for one another. That sort of sense of community often deters crime."

Shopping Residents must travel off the peninsula for shopping opportunities. While there are stores in nearby Edgemere, most shopping is found a few miles away in Dundalk. Eastpoint Mall is the nearest mall.

Dining In Food Lion in Edgemere

Dining Out With water all around, it's not surprising that the four restaurants in and near Millers Island - the New White Swan, the Dock of the Bay, Islander Inn and Bay Shore Bar and Grill - all offer great seafood, among other items.

Larry Thanner bought the only waterfront restaurant, the Dock of the Bay, after Isabel forced its closure. He said his site is the only Baltimore County restaurant that offers dining on the Chesapeake Bay. The 16 boat slips at the restaurant are usually full during the summer.

"There are a lot of people in the county that don't have access to the water," said Thanner. "So they come down here and sit at the outside tables right on the water and have lunch or dinner."

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