Driving into Taneytown from Westminster on Route 140, visitors are greeted by sloping fields and open, green spaces.
This city in northwestern Carroll County lies 42 miles from Baltimore and 15 miles from Hanover, Pa. It has just over 5,000 residents.
Taneytown (pronounced Tawny-town) celebrates its 250th year next month. The historic downtown area is registered in the National Register of Historic Places. The city has seen a marked increase in people and traffic flow, though it continues to have a small-town feel, residents said.
Growth has been rapid during the past two to five years. Three hundred homes have been built since 2000, said City Manager Gary W. Hardman. Between 1990 and 2000, Taneytown's population grew 39 percent to 5,128 residents.
Many people are moving from Glen Burnie, Frederick and Washington, said Lisa Trout of Long & Foster Real Estate Inc. in Taneytown. The area also is seeing an influx of people from Prince George's, Montgomery, Howard and Baltimore counties, Hardman said.
The average sale price of property in Carroll County in May 1999 was $179,809, compared with $288,973 in May 2004, an increase of $109,164 in five years, according to Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.
In Taneytown, sale prices averaged nearly $200,000 during the past year. The average list price for homes currently listed for sale is $349,105. Farms and single-family homes have been the most popular properties selling in Taneytown, Hardman said. Single-family homes sell for $200,000 to $300,000, Trout said. Townhouses also are in high demand and sell for about $100,000 to $120,000, Trout said. Houses in Meadowbrook, a new development under construction in Taneytown, sell for $257,990 to $314,490.
Frank and Jackie Collins moved from Baltimore less than three years ago. The Collinses moved so their 7-year-old daughter could grow up in a safe environment, Frank Collins said. Also, they heard that Carroll County had a "top-notch" school system and prices were more affordable than in nearby Frederick and Reisterstown.
"We just stumbled across it," Frank Collins said. "It's a nice community."
Longtime residents notice the influx of homeowners.
"There's no doubt there's always people moving in," said Sandy Miller, a resident of Taneytown for more than 20 years.
Area merchants said they're pleased with the added population.
"My business here is definitely picking up," said Herman Johnson, assistant store manager at Food Lion in Taneytown.
Taneytown, founded in 1754 by Edward Diggs and Raphael Taney, for whom the city is named, originated as a 60-acre land grant referred to as the "Maryland Backwoods."
The downtown area's main street - East Baltimore Street - includes a local coffee shop and other retail stores, all housed in red brick buildings. Churches line the street with manicured lawns. Area neighborhoods are visible from this spot in town, making their presence in the city silently known.
Carroll County has a predominantly white population - about 96 percent, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. However, the city has seen more minorities moving into the area, mostly Hispanics, African-Americans and some Asians.
And even though house prices have been rising, there are efforts to provide low-income housing in the community through an effort by the Interfaith Housing Alliance Inc., a nonprofit organization.
James Upchurch, president of Interfaith Housing Alliance, said the Self-help Housing Project brings five or six families together to build their own houses. There are two Self-help subdivisions in Taneytown - Forest Glen and Freestate Heights. He said a new development is in the works.
Upchurch said the group is working to make sure affordable housing is available throughout the community so lower-income families don't move to West Virginia and Pennsylvania, where home prices are lower.
With demand for housing strong, community leaders have faced concerns about adequate water supplies as the population grows. The city has enough water to meet current demand, but officials are exploring a third water basin in the area, Hardman said. It should be able to meet any population growth, he said.
"I don't think it will slow development," he said.
ZIP Code: 21787
Drive time to downtown Baltimore: 70 minutes
Schools: Taneytown Elementary, Runnymede Elementary, Northwest Middle, Francis Scott Key High
Shopping: Gettysburg Village Factory Stores, TownMall of Westminster, Stonegate Square Shopping Center
Homes on market: 33
Average list price: $200,923 *
Average sales price: $198,747 *
Average days on market: 86 *
Percentage of list price based on sales price: 99% *
* Based on 159 homes sold during the past 12 months as compiled by Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.