The signs of change are everywhere: In Westminster, shoppers jam the huge, warehouse-style stores that are springing up on once-quiet streets. North of Bel Air, polo matches are drawing more and more participants. On the Eastern Shore, aging grocery stores are stocking their shelves with pricey organic vegetables and gourmet foods.
Families moving to the outer suburbs are fueling a tremendous shift of wealth in the Baltimore region. That shift is fattening tax rolls and creating vast new shopping areas in once-rural counties while leaving older communities gasping for air.
The rush of dollars to the outlying suburbs -- where new residents earn, on average, more than those who are moving out -- is staggering. In Carroll County, they accounted for an increase of $315 million in personal income from 1994 to 1997, according to a Sun analysis of Internal Revenue Service data.
In Harford County, new residents generated an increase of $208 million during that period; in Queen Anne's County, $132 million.
Anne Arundel and Howard are experiencing similar gains, as the young, affluent middle class moves up to suburban colonials.
While suburban growth has been well chronicled, the shift of wealth it represents has received less attention, though its impact is profound.
"I have defi nitely seen a lot of changes. More luxury housing. More two-income families," says David Wolff, owner of the Fine Grind, a gourmet coffee shop that opened two years ago in Bel Air.
"When the demographics changed, all the chains came up. More cars. More restaurants. There used to be a handful to go to; now I've only been to a handful because there are so many."
All this new money comes at a price: New residents in outlying suburbs increase demand for roads, schools, recreation programs, libraries, trash pickup, police and fire protection.
For the communities losing wealth, the problems are greater. Baltimore City witnessed a net exodus of more than 24,000 taxpayers between 1994 and 1997 and a net loss of annual personal income of $1.2 billion. In Baltimore County, the loss was $404 million.
Both localities are struggling to revive aging neighborhoods, combat crime and improve schools to stop residents from leaving for the exurbs. New, upscale homes in the Honeygo community are Baltimore County's latest effort to stem the flow of residents to Carroll and Harford counties.
The Sun's analysis is based on migration data compiled by the Internal Revenue Service, which tracks each year the location of taxpayers who move. Although the figures exclude some taxpayers -- first-time filers, newlyweds and low-income residents who did not make enough to require a tax return -- they offer some of the best insights into how the region's demographics have changed since the 1990 Census.
The people on the move are mostly couples like Frederick and Laine Rosewag, both 28. Frederick, a computer hardware salesman, and Laine, a market analyst for Sweetheart Cup Inc., have a combined household income of about $100,000.
After meeting at the University of Maryland, College Park, the young couple lived in Federal Hill and later moved to a three-bedroom townhouse in the New Town development in Owings Mills.
But after three years there, they wanted a larger home.
"We got greedy, and we wanted the bigger house before we had kids," Frederick said. After several months searching new developments, they settled last fall on a $252,322 four-bedroom colonial with cream siding and green shutters in the Edgewood development of Eldersburg, in southern Carroll County.
"We looked in Owings Mills, but we couldn't find what we wanted. In Baltimore County, the homes are built right on top of each other. We couldn't find a community," said Laine.
The lower housing prices attracted them, too.
"The price difference was $20,000 to $30,000," Frederick said.
Business follows people
As the Rosewags and other well-heeled residents pour into the suburbs, businesses are quick to follow.
Shopping centers have sprouted on farmland and woodland along Route 26, catering to families like the Rosewags; Eldersburg has four supermarkets, and shoppers can have their pick of pizza parlors and video rental stores.
In another fast-growing section of Carroll, along Route 140 in Westminster, more than a half-dozen national restaurant chains have opened during the past two years.
Developers say the demographics are right: two-income families with disposable income and not much time to cook. Even the old-timers have felt the impact.
A Twin Kiss ice cream stand, founded in 1957 at Route 140 and Sullivan Road, was popular for its simple menu of soft ice cream, burgers and $5 dinners.
But with affluent families moving to the Westminster area every year, owner Gary Lane realized it was time to compete with the newer restaurants.
"We researched Carroll County. Most of the people buying the homes were two-income couples," he said. "People were expecting more than a country hangout. We had to grow up or get out."
In December, Lane and his business partner razed the old ice cream shop and opened the Plum Crazy Diner, a 1950s-inspired restaurant with black-and-white photos and album covers lining the walls. The new diner with plum-colored benches seats 160 people and has a full menu with not only typical diner fare but also $14 crab cake and steak dinners.
In honor of the past, Lane re-created the Twin Kiss ice cream stand at one end of the diner.
In Harford County, new residents are fueling church expansions, with more worshipers in the pews and possibly more dollars in the donation basket.
Bel Air United Methodist Church is constructing a 28,870-square-foot addition, doubling the size of its sanctuary on Linwood Avenue to accommodate its growing congregation of 2,300 people.
The minister, Charles W. Lightner, who watched the church grow during the past two decades before retiring this year, said new wealth in the suburbs is not always reflected in church offerings.
"Although people are making more, they are giving less. They are spending it more and more on their children," he said.
The church's growth mirrors the commercial development boom around Bel Air.
During the past five years, stores such as Best Buy, Home Depot and Target have opened along Route 24.
And Bel Air's Main Street, which has struggled like many old downtowns, is experiencing a rebirth, local planners said. An art shop, gourmet deli and coffee shop have opened in the past two years.
David Wolff's coffee shop is doing a brisk business. Book clubs meet there in the evenings, local artists exhibit work on its walls, and on weekends, saxophonists and guitarists perform.
Business along Main Street will only get better, he said: "I think I'm at the beginning of a renaissance."
Harford County's taste for a cup of gourmet coffee is just the beginning. A polo club plays matches every Sunday north of Bel Air. A Barnes & Noble bookstore is crowded on a weekday afternoon with readers.
And in another sign of the economic times, several discount stores have struggled and one has closed, said Carol Deibel, Bel Air's planning director.
For every success story in the newly energized suburbs, there is a downside to the influx of new residents. Newcomers increase county revenue generated by the piggyback income tax, but it is not enough to meet the increased demand for services.
Recreation programs are so full that some children are turned away from soccer and baseball, Deibel said. The roads continue to be crowded, causing long backups along Route 924 and U.S. 1.
In Carroll County, new residents often expect a level of service the county is unable to provide. Volunteers have to maintain the playing fields, including painting lines before games -- something unheard of in older suburbs.
"A lot of the people have moved here from Baltimore County and Howard County where all that is paid for. That's one luxury that we don't have here," said Marty Summers, director of the Freedom Area Recreation Council.
Paved roads are sometimes considered a luxury, too.
Carroll government officials have heard repeated pleas to blacktop the county's 90 miles of dirt roads, which would cost millions. They are scrambling to keep the well-traveled paved roads in shape, they said.
Maria DiFatta, who moved from Towson to northern Carroll in 1992, has fought to get the county to pave a 2.5-mile stretch of Leppo Road that 20 homeowners share.
"There is no charm in a dirt road. It's a dirty situation. It carries a lot of dust in the air. You can't have your windows open," she said, adding that front-end alignments are needed about as often as oil changes because of the potholes.
Pleas for better service are also heard on Maryland's Eastern Shore, where some counties don't provide curbside trash pickup or recycling.
"I think the property taxes are high for what you are getting," said Jeff Riedel, who lives in Kent Island's Southwind development, a private community of imposing homes off U.S. 50 with lawns like putting greens and wide-open views of the bay.
But Southwind came without public trash pickup, public water or sewer service. After 25 years of those services in Anne Arundel County, Riedel was disappointed.
Still, he is pleased with his new life and dream home on Kent Island, a top destination on the Eastern Shore. He commutes 30 minutes to his job as a pharmacist in Annapolis.
His wife, Danna Riedel, drives about an hour to Baltimore, where she is director of financial services at Sinai Hospital. Their five-bedroom, four-bathroom, 6,500-square-foot colonial sits on 3 acres within sight of the water. It is very private, he said.
Some areas of the state are developing so quickly that businesses have not kept pace.
In Centreville, new residents are clamoring for a larger grocery store to replace a small Acme built in the 1950s. A new Acme is in the works, but until it's completed, the store is trying to meet the demands of new customers, mostly young professional couples.
The Acme has cleared shelf space for easy-to-fix gourmet meals, ethnic foods and organic vegetables. What it can't keep in stock, the store will ship in.
"Two or three years ago, the demand was not high, but it has really gone through the roof the last few years," said Acme store manager Rick Pratt.
The arrival of wealth in the suburbs also causes problems for those who are not experiencing the same level of prosperity. Howard County saw a gain of $135 million in annual personal income from 1994 to 1997, and in Anne Arundel, it was $158 million. But as incomes continue to increase, so does the cost of homes.
Daniel Besseck, vice president of the Howard County Police Officer Association, said only 50 percent of the county's officers can afford to live in the county.
"Even if it's a two-income family, it's difficult to afford a home in the county," Besseck said.
For older suburbs, the challenges are greater, though economists say this should not be a major concern for Baltimore County because it has strong commercial and industrial bases.
A couple of things bode well for Baltimore County, according to Anirban Basu, an economist with RESI, a research and consulting institute of Towson University. For one, Generation X-ers like to live in urban areas.
"We will continue to see out-migration of income over the next several years," Basu said, but he added that overall, the numbers are "not a dim prospect." Baltimore County will not go the way of the city, he said.
"Baltimore City is everything but a middle-class jurisdiction. It's split between lower middle class and upper class. Baltimore County has a healthy middle class, allowing it to have stability and solve these issues," Basu said.
Still, the loss of wealth for Baltimore City and Baltimore County should be a concern for all the counties of greater Baltimore, regional experts say.
"Regions with declining core areas do less well than regions with thriving and growing cores," said Gene Bracken, a spokesman for the Greater Baltimore Committee. "It's not good for the region from an economic development standpoint to have two central areas losing residential wealth."
For businesses looking to relocate in the Baltimore region, the loss of wealth at its center can be a "discouraging factor," he said.
Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina said the county was slow to realize that it wasn't providing appropriate housing to keep its residents from leaving.
"There was not a lot of quality single-family housing being developed. It was either too expensive so they were not affordable, or it was on the cheaper end," he said.
With projects like Honeygo, a 3,000-acre community near White Marsh, the county is trying to meet the demand. The number of planned homes was recently reduced to 4,300 to ensure high-quality housing. Large four-bedroom homes sell for more than $200,000.
The Honeygo project has been a success. The homes have been selling quickly to couples like Kim and Jeff DeLine.
Kim, a market analyst in Columbia, and Jeff, director of an information technology firm in Towson, moved to Baltimore County five years ago.
They bought a townhouse in Perry Hall, but they wanted more space. They looked at Perry Hall Farms in Honeygo, but decided to explore Harford County, where large homes on acre lots were available at reasonable prices. "But we kept coming back to Perry Hall Farms," Kim DeLine said.
Though they could get more for their dollar in Harford County, she said, it was not worth the added commute over congested roads.
P. David Fields, director of community conservation for Baltimore County, is optimistic that some affluent people fleeing to the newer suburbs will have a change of heart. They will realize that values of community, where there is a mix of young and old, are as important as the size of the home, he said. Instead of commuting more than an hour to work each day, they will decide to invest that time in their community.
"It's not simply throwing money at problems," Fields said. "You have to capture people's imaginations."
Mike Himowitz, The Sun's electronic news editor, analyzed the data for this article.
Shift of income in other counties
Allegany -24.8 million
Calvert +200 million
Caroline +$13.5 million
Cecil +$72.7 million
Charles +$43.7 million
Dorchester +$7 million
Garrett +$4 million
Kent +$49 million
St. Mary's +$89.2 million
Somerset +$7.6 million
Talbot +$92 million
Washington +$17.9 million
Worcester +$138 million
Source: Internal Revenue Service