Clarksville's growth and growing pain; Expansion: Influx of residents and businesses in area surrounding routes 108 and 32 receives mixed reception.


Open fields, little traffic, country atmosphere -- those are some of the fond memories Irene Miles recalls when she talks about Clarksville.

But those qualities also set the table for a steady pace of development that has altered the face of the town at the crossroads of routes 108 and 32 in Howard County.

"Clarksville is not what we knew as Clarksville," says Miles, a real estate agent who lived there for 16 years before she moved to nearby Highland in 1988. "Clarksville was basically nothing more than houses on both sides of Route 108. Now it's a booming commercial area."

Thousands more residents and many businesses are coming. While some may lament the increased traffic and shrinking farmland, the area strongly appeals to people seeking to live close to Baltimore and Washington. They're willing to pay a lot: from $300,000 to a $1 million for a new house.

"It's one of the top-end places to live dollarwise," says Joseph W. Rutter Jr., director of the county Department of Planning and Zoning.

The once tiny community at routes 108 and 32 is the bull's-eye in what Rutter's department defines as the Clarksville area: a chunk of central Howard County bounded by Route 32 and Folly Quarter Road to the north, Route 97 to the west, the Montgomery County border to the south and U.S. 29 to the east.

Planners predict the area will grow rapidly in the next two decades, from 6,092 houses and 18,478 residents to 9,000 homes and 24,200 people.

One of the biggest development proposals -- more than 1,000 residential units on the Iager farm in Fulton -- is facing strong community opposition in a series of hearings being held by the county Zoning Board.

Smaller developments sometimes spark opposition, too.

Some people are disturbed that the architectural styles of some new houses don't match those of existing homes. In Clarks Glen North, the 38 Colonial-style homes will offer a distinct contrast with the one-story houses on Thompson Drive.

"Everybody has a rancher in this area," says Rosalie Edwards, who lives on Thompson Drive. The Colonial-style houses "take away from the character of the neighborhood."

Residents in Pointers Overlook are angry that a 21-home project is planned for a wooded 17.2-acre site behind their community.

"We have an issue where people in the back of this community paid high lot premiums to back up to a historic farm," says Pete Butziger, president of the Pointers Overlook Community Association. "They're upset that the farm will be chopped up and that homes will be back there."

Growing pains

Growth has brought more traffic -- volume on Route 108 has exploded from 20,950 vehicles in 1996 to 30,200 in 1998, according to a study -- and subtler changes in tastes and work patterns.

Boarman's Meat Market at the corner of routes 216 and 108 in Highland has added party platters and higher-priced cuts.

"I used to sell three to four chuck roasts a week," says owner Florentine "Larry" Boarman. "Now it's 20 filet mignons."

Across the street from Boarman's, Trenton O. Schwarzer, owner of the Print Depot, has developed a steady clientele of Highland and Clarksville residents who run businesses out of their homes.

"There are a lot of people who are reps for national companies and live in the community and work out of their homes," says Schwarzer, who estimates that about a third of his customers have home-based businesses.

Positive side

Residential growth is also a boon for small-business owners such as Diane Hinkle. Breakfast Burgers & More, a carryout restaurant she opened on Route 108 in 1995, continues to be a popular venue for construction workers and residents despite the recent opening of a fast-food restaurant in the River Hill village center.

More development "will be great for us," Hinkle says. "It's good for business to have more people come in here."

Rutter predicts that westward commercial development will be limited because of zoning restrictions, the county's agricultural preservation program and high-traffic roads.

"You're not going to attract as much commercial development as you would like to because of crowded roads," he says. "You're not going to get gas during the rush hour unless you're almost out of it because you can't get back out onto 108."

Complaints associated with growth are becoming more evident. Daily congestion on Route 108 has led to the addition of four traffic signals on the thoroughfare, and daily emergency calls to the fire department have tripled since it opened on Route 108 last October.

"This is like a city," says Francisca Cortes, who opened El Azteca restaurant on Route 108 in Clarksville six years ago. "You used to see a lot of deer. Not anymore."

Pub Date: 9/26/99

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