Perry Hall keeps packing them in


Located 20 miles north of downtown Baltimore, Perry Hall is a growing suburb where new homes keep springing up next to cornfields and former farms.

The area's proximity to the city has drawn many homebuyers to Perry Hall, where more than 20,000 homes now cover what once was farmland. Roads and schools have become crowded during the past 20 years, some residents said, as more people move to the area.

"I had grown up in a rural area, and I couldn't imagine living in a rowhouse," said Chris Jackovitz, who moved to Forge Road in Perry Hall 46 years ago and has watched the area grow rapidly. "Perry Hall was a nice, quiet farming community."

Now, with the explosion of real estate, the small farming community keeps transitioning into bustling suburbia.

Townhouses sell for about $150,000, and single-family homes fetch anywhere from $250,000 to $400,000, said Chuck Marks, an associate broker with Long & Foster Cos.

"We paid $72,000 for our house when we bought it in the late 1970s, and now it's worth anywhere between $260,000 and $270,000," Marks said.

Most of the larger homes have been built since 1996, said David Marks, Chuck Marks' son and president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association.

A new sewer line was added to the area during the mid-1980s, helping development expand in the area. Roads have been enlarged to deal with the traffic. Community groups have worked to control growth by lobbying for zoning limits on apartment and townhouse developments.

New shopping centers - packed with grocery stores, restaurants and food carryouts - can be found along Perry Hall's main strip, Belair Road. White Marsh Mall is about 10 minutes away.

The neighborhood improvement association said Perry Hall is bounded on the north by Gunpowder Falls, White Marsh Run to the south, Philadelphia Road to the east and Simms Avenue to the west.

Two of the community's largest gateways are Belair Road and Interstate 95. Both routes also serve as main arteries to and from Harford County, which deals with its own traffic congestion almost daily.

While the roads tend to be crowded, a new turn lane recently was added to the center of five-lane Belair Road. For that reason, Belair Road traffic rarely backs up as much as York Road in Towson, Jackovitz said.

"We have a lot of traffic, but we don't have a lot of traffic congestion," said Dennis Eckard, a member of the Perry Hall Business Association.

Despite its rapid development, Perry Hall still holds on to its rural roots, residents said.

"The businesses are very community-conscious," said Al Zorn, a member of the Perry Hall Improvement Association who lives next to a 70-acre farm off Marilynn Road. "They all participate in everything we do," from the Perry Hall Concert Series to holiday parades.

Chuck Marks said, "Perry Hall is a very stable community. We have lots of fine churches and a very strong, aggressive community association."

This sense of community activism has spurred Perry Hall residents to oversee their area's growth. Neighborhood associations have worked with developers to reach a balance in the type of new developments, asking for more "empty nester" homes and fewer apartments.

"It's a controlled growth we feel comfortable with," Eckard said. "We're very much involved in trying to keep it a community where people want to live."

But with the influx of residents, local schools have become crowded, and Perry Hall residents need a car to go anywhere. "You need wheels," Jackovitz said. But she added that's how the community wants it to be.

Despite its recent popularity among homebuyers, the area is more than 200 years old. Founded in 1775, Perry Hall was situated around Perry Hall Mansion, which was built on the highest hill on the 1,000-acre plantation.

"Perry Hall has a great reputation," said David Marks. "It is a good name people know."

Perry Hall

ZIP codes: 21128 and 21236

Drive time to downtown Baltimore: 20 minutes

Public schools: Perry Hall Elementary; Gunpowder Elementary; Seven Oaks Elementary; Perry Hall Middle; Perry Hall High

Shopping: White Marsh Mall; various shopping centers

Homes on the market: 37

Average list price: $253,000 *

Average sales price: $251,000 *

Days on market: 44 *

Sales price as a percentage of listing price: 99 percent ** Based on 157 homes sold during the past 12 months as compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.

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