Seven Oaks braces for influx of BRAC families

Sun reporter

With its homes and stores, and a new school and second community center, Seven Oaks in Odenton is just about fully built out. Its leafy streets loop into landscaped cul-de-sacs with tot lots, and its swimming pools are taking the holiday weekend to open for the season.

A committee just formed to look into creating a dog park. The homeowners' association is planning its summer-kickoff barbecue for several hundred people for the first weekend in June. Children are walking from school.

"It's peaceful," said longtime resident Linda Goodman, noting neighbors look out for each other.

Two decades ago, Halle Enterprises' planned unit development of more than 725 acres in western Anne Arundel County was the new kid on the block. Now, plans call for changes around the wedge-shaped community facing Route 175 and the Army's Fort Meade.

On one side of Seven Oaks, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) affecting Fort Meade is projected to relocate up to 700 families to the area in the next five to eight years. A huge office park also is to go on the federal land. On another side, the Odenton Town Center mixed-use project is in the offing, and with it, a road linking the Town Center and Seven Oaks is in the works.

Housing stock // Seven Oaks, which got its start in 1987, has single-family homes, townhouses, condos and rental apartments. The Seven Oaks Community Association covers 2,700 homes whose owners have full use of the recreation facilities. The Enclave condos receive some association benefits, but the two apartment complexes in Seven Oaks are not part of the association; those three account for a couple of hundred residences.

Home to many federal workers and military personnel, Seven Oaks is a likely place for BRAC newcomers to house-hunt. The proximity to Fort Meade "is going to make that particular area very, very attractive to a lot of the new employees that are coming in," said Bill Franklin, a real estate agent with Long & Foster Real Estate's Crofton office.

Kids and schools // Parents have an active babysitting co-op. Kids Ink, a private day-care center, recently opened within the community. Seven Oaks Elementary School opened last fall.

From there, students go to MacArthur Middle School, where state test-score averages are below the Anne Arundel County averages, except for algebra, according to state data. For high school, the community is in the midst of a multiyear shift from Arundel High School to having students attend Meade Senior High School.

Though Meade has improved in recent years, it remains below the county average in state assessment exams. Two specialized programs are there, a third will start this fall. MacArthur and Meade are on the grounds of Fort Meade, which gets a mixed reaction from Seven Oaks parents.

Crime // The association hires off-duty county police officers who patrol in marked cars and respond to calls. "The bigger issues are property crime and things committed by juveniles," said Lt. Jeffrey Silverman, police spokesman, noting that property crimes, notably thefts from autos, have risen around the region.

Transportation // With sidewalks and benches, Seven Oaks is pedestrian- and stroller-friendly. Located nearly at the center of the Baltimore-Washington- Annapolis triangle, it's close to the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, Route 32 and other major roads. MARC train has an Odenton station. A bus links Seven Oaks to Arundel Mills and surrounding areas. Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is less than a half-hour by car.

Shopping // The community has a strip center with neighborhood conveniences. Malls are about 15 minutes in any direction - Arundel Mills, Marley Station, Columbia Mall and Westfield Shoppingtown in Annapolis - as are big-box stores.

Some old establishments on Route 175's "Boomtown Strip" that lured servicemen off post are boarded up. Redevelopment has begun, but local officials say the key will be the exact alignment of Route 175 when it is improved. State highway officials expect to have plans in a year; construction is about 2 1/2 years off.

Dining in // The Seven Oaks Shopping Center has a Weis Market. Other major supermarkets and restaurants that have takeout menus are within a five-minute drive.

Dining out // There is cuisine beyond Route 175's fast food and the malls. Among popular ethnic fare: Angelico for pizza, Pachanga for Mexican food, Bangkok Kitchen for Thai food and Sino Cafe for Chinese food.

Nightlife // The closest movie theater is at Arundel Mills. Cancun Cantina in Hanover is a popular nightspot.

Recreation // Homeowners association members can use tennis, volleyball and basketball courts in Seven Oaks. The association's social committee holds events from wine tastings to holiday parties. The Gambrills-Odenton Recreation Council runs year-round kids' sports. The Patuxent Research Refuge is nearby.

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