When a job change forced John and Peggy Culleton to relocate 30 years ago, they went in search of a "nice community."
What they found was Eldersburg.
"Eldersburg is not flat, but gently rolling and is still a pretty place in many ways," Culleton said. "There's a good base of churches and synagogues, and that has become the glue that holds the community together."
Eldersburg is located along a stretch of Liberty Road in Carroll County just across Liberty Reservoir from Baltimore County. The growing residential area is attractive for its convenient location, rural landscapes and expanding housing stock.
"It's a very good area for first-time buyers and for move-up buyers as well because of all the houses being built," said Joe DeLuca, of the Eldersburg office of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. "There is really a lot to choose from in housing styles here. People like it because it's still a country setting with lower taxes and the schools are some of the top in the state."
A variety of housing can be found throughout Eldersburg. Many of the older neighborhoods offer ranchers, split-levels and Cape Cods, while most of the homes being built are Colonials.
The prices for the new four-bedroom Colonials start in the low $200,000s, while the majority of older homes range from $140,000 to $225,000. New townhouses in the area start in the low $100,000 range.
Eldersburg's location, on the southern edge of Carroll County next to Baltimore and Howard counties, attracts many people looking to relocate.
"We get so much relocation here it's incredible," said Jan Hagedorn, manager of the O'Conor, Piper & Flynn ERA office in Eldersburg. "People come looking for a house in either Howard County or Carroll County, and they almost always end up here because the price is so much more reasonable."
The diversity of Eldersburg makes it a hot market, Hagedorn said.
"Our inventory is very low, as it is everywhere, but it seems to be a much more vibrant market here in Eldersburg. It's nothing to see multiple offers on homes, even now, in the middle of winter."
With the completion of the Baltimore Beltway in the 1960s, Eldersburg quickly went from a mostly agricultural community to a residential bedroom community. Residential growth accelerated when sewer and water were introduced to the majority of the area in the 1970s.
While some have welcomed the growth, many longtime residents such as John Culleton are worried that the area is expanding too rapidly. "Like all of south Carroll County, it's suffering from an excess of residential building," he said. "The schools are badly overcrowded, traffic is getting to the point where it's difficult to get across Liberty Road and we have a serious problem with water."
To address the area's growth problems, residents formed the Freedom Area Citizens Council, which serves as a go-between for South Carroll residents and the Carroll County commissioners.
The county's response has been the development of a new community plan for the Freedom Area, which includes Eldersburg. The plan represents the first comprehensive review of the original Freedom plan in nearly 25 years. When complete, it will provide a direction for growth and development in the area for years to come.
"What I liked about Eldersburg was that it was rural," said Nimrod Davis, a member of the Freedom Area Citizens Council and a lifelong resident of Eldersburg. "There wasn't a lot of traffic, or a lot of people or anything."
Davis notes the convenience to Baltimore, Howard and Frederick counties as the reason the area is so attractive to homebuyers and why he has decided to remain though much of what he liked about Eldersburg is changing.
For Jeff and Susan Hansen, who relocated to Eldersburg from Bel Air, the school system was a major plus. "We came here because of my husband's job; we felt very comfortable in the area," said Susan Hansen, who heads the Eldersburg Elementary School PTA. "The schools were a big draw, and I wanted a good physical area for my kids. I can pretty much throw the door open on Saturday mornings and there are a ton of kids to play with and there's no safety concern."
The Hansens are originally from Long Island, N.Y., and were able to draw some parallels.
"Our gut feeling when we moved here was that it was a good place to be and where we belonged. Eldersburg is a lot like Long Island was 30 years ago when we were growing up, and that's where a lot of the appeal is," Susan Hansen said.
The area has nearly 5,000 acres of open public space and features such recreational facilities as Piney Run Park, Patapsco State Park, Morgan Run Natural Environmental Area and Liberty Reservoir.
The many parks provide recreational access to hiking trails, fishing and biking.
The outdoor activities are one reason why Bryan and Jackie Foreman moved from Federal Hill to Eldersburg nearly four years ago.
"We take the dog to Piney Run all the time. And Bryan does a lot of fishing and off-road biking. It's certainly a reason why we moved out here," said Jackie Foreman. "We wanted the best of both worlds -- we wanted a neighborhood but we also wanted to be close to nature. And Eldersburg has all of those things."
Despite the continuing development, Foreman said, the area has retained much of its beauty.
"It still has that feeling of being untouched, and it's just so beautiful out here. We couldn't wait to have some land and sit out back to watch the sunset and listen to the crickets. Even though so much is starting to grow on the main road, the neighborhoods themselves, still have that feeling," she said.
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 35 minutes
Public schools: Carrolltowne Elementary, Eldersburg Elementary, Piney Ridge Elementary, Oklahoma Middle, Liberty High
Shopping: Carrolltowne Center, Freedom Village Shopping Center, Eldersburg Plaza
ZIP code: 21784