Forest Hill offers numerous signs that it is on Harford County's fast track.
Once a quiet community of large farms, Forest Hill has grown up. Where just one traffic light slowed motorists until a decade ago, the community of more than 10,000 people just north of Bel Air now boasts several traffic lights on Route 24, its main north-south artery, including the latest one at Route 24 and Osborne Parkway.
A new school, Forest Lakes Elementary, opened last fall on Osborne Parkway and is already on its way to exceeding its 588-student capacity within the next four years. County officials are seeking state funds to build a second elementary school in Forest Hill by 2000, according to Donald Morrison, a spokesman for the public school system in Harford County. The 450-student school would cost at least $7 million, he added.
Fueling the need for new schools are developments such as Spenceola Farms and Forest Lakes, which offer a wide range of housing styles and designs previously unavailable in Forest Hill.
Townhouses, elevator and garage condominiums starting in the low $100,000s and single-family homes with properties of up to three-quarters of an acre make the community a favorite for people who are in the move-up market, according to Veny S. Arias, a Realtor with Re/Max American Dream in Bel Air.
Arias, who moved to Forest Hill from Carney in 1986, recalled that Harford County used to offer $300 in incentives to encourage people to move to areas north of Bel Air such as Forest Hill.
"Now there's no need to attract people to Forest Hill, it sells itself," Arias said.
Albert F. Seymour, former assistant superintendent of Harford County public schools, moved into the older portion of the Forest Lakes community of Forest Hill in 1971 because he wanted a house near Bel Air High School, where he was an assistant principal.
"It was really, really rural," Seymour said. "Now there's more traffic and more homes, but the feeling is still the same."
Much of the increased traffic today starts on Jarrettsville Pike southward to Towson and Hunt Valley, where rush-hour commuters can expect to spend up to 40 minutes, Arias said.
Others, she added, move to Forest Hill for its proximity to Baltimore County, but enjoy the lower property taxes of Harford County.
Avoiding the traffic
Susan Paul said she and her husband found a new four-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bathroom colonial in the Forest Lakes subdivision an attractive alternative to living in Towson, where Robbie works for Black & Decker Corp.
"We didn't want to deal with all the [traffic] mess in Abingdon," Susan Paul said. She explained that when the couple and their daughter, Samantha, 1, were looking for a house, they quickly learned about the rush-hour traffic heading north and south on Interstate 95 and the densely populated Bel Air-to-Edgewood corridor.
"We also liked the schools that this area feeds into," she said.
Samantha will attend Forest Lakes Elementary, which is just a few blocks from their home. Then she will attend Fallston Middle and Fallston High, two of the county's more popular schools.
Happiness in Forest Lakes
The schools and the convenient access to shopping and other services drew Mary Mondo, her husband, Vic, and their daughter, Francesca, 18 months, to the neighborhood. They bought a four-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bathroom house in Forest Lakes in December.
"There's lots of shopping areas real close by [Rock Spring Shopping Center and Harford Mall] and you don't have to deal with all the traffic that would be in Baltimore County," she said.
The location allows her husband, who works for an industrial supply company with offices in Baltimore and New York, to more easily commute between the two locations. "Forest Hill is perfect for us," Mary Mondo said.
Although many children in the neighborhood are of elementary school age, Mondo and Paul were able to find enough parents with toddlers in their neighborhood to create a play group where children and stay-at-home mothers gather once a week at one another's homes.
"It's more for the mothers," said Paul, who learned of the group shortly after moving into the neighborhood.
Theodore Raines, who retired from AT&T;'s office in Atlanta to return to Maryland, has been tending to several trees on his 3-quarter-acre property.
He and his wife, Lona, moved to a new three-bedroom, two-bathroom single-family house in Forest Hill in June. Before moving to Atlanta in 1984, they had lived in Fallston for 27 years.
"It's near everything; we have public water and sewer service, which we didn't have in Fallston, and it's a nice place to live," he said, looking out from his well-tended lawn to dozens of similar Colonials in the development.
"Since just about everyone around us works all day, we have the whole area to ourselves each day," his wife added.
Population: 9,029 (1990 census)
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 45 minutes
Public schools: Fallston High, Fallston Middle, Forest Lakes Elementary
ZIP code: 21050
Average price of a single-family house: $204,848 *
* Based on 50 sales in the last six months, reported to the Metropolitan Regional Information Systems.
Pub Date: 5/10/98