Residential growth in the Hampstead and Manchester area hinges on increasing two things: expanding the capacity of municipal water systems and schools.
Without the expansion of those resources, new homes and more industrial sites will have trouble developing in northeast Carroll County, officials have said.
About 5,000 approved building lots are in the pipeline, and residents also hope a second high school will be constructed and open in the fall of 2009.
Land has been secured for the new high school site in Manchester, but county officials recommended excluding the $70 million project from a six-year plan for capital improvements. However, the county commissioners pushed for the project, including it in their proposed budget.
"We haven't approved a new residential subdivision in 10 years," Hampstead Town Manager Ken Decker said. But the area is seeing the construction of some major projects. The $83.4 million Hampstead Bypass, a 4 1/2 -mile road that has been nearly 40 years in the planning, should be open to traffic at the end of 2008.
The Carroll County commissioners and state legislators support continuing the bypass of Route 30 to include Manchester but doubt that project will gain the favor of Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.
"Traffic has become a real headache," said Commissioner Julia Walsh Gouge, a longtime Hampstead resident. "Once the bypass is finished, we'll see some real relief around Hampstead." Construction also has begun on Ebb Valley Elementary School in Manchester, due to open in the fall of 2008. It will be North Carroll's fourth elementary site. Children from a developing 150-home subdivision at nearby Hallie Hill Farm will likely attend the new school.
Hallie Hills, as the development is called, will probably be Manchester's last major subdivision, at least in the near future, said Mayor Chris D'Amario.
Manchester's sewage treatment plant can handle waste produced by up to about 5,000 residents, so the lack of capacity will inhibit future municipal growth, he said.
Growth in both Hampstead and Manchester has slowed somewhat since 2000. Hampstead, the larger town with more than 5,500 residents, has been annexing small parcels of adjacent agricultural lands to fill in its municipal borders.
"The towns have worked to control their growth tremendously, and that has helped the county in dealing with schools, water and all the other things," Gouge said.
Largely agricultural landscapes of plowed fields surround the two towns. In between them is Greenmount, home to the area's Wal-Mart, other shopping venues and the North Carroll Senior Center.
Niche boutiques and businesses are emerging along Main Street in Hampstead, such as Snickerdoodles Bakery, Holistic Health Therapeutic Spa and Shipley's Fine Jewelry. Miller's Food Market offers custom-cut meats at Route 27 in Manchester.
When Snickerdoodles Bakery moves to Hampstead's new Illiano Plaza shopping center by June, owner Rob Gonzalez will also open up an adjoining coffee shop, nearly doubling the size of his store. His 3 1/2 -year-old bakery is known for its rainbow-colored birthday cakes, fruit tarts, chocolate mousse bars and wedding cakes. Snickerdoodles also supplies the treats for all the teas held at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster.
On the side, Gonzalez also serves as head girls' varsity lacrosse coach at nearby North Carroll High School.
The Residences at the Hampstead School, where an old elementary school was renovated into an affordable living facility for senior citizens, is a recent renewal project in the area.
Demographics in North Carroll are changing, though the area and county at large remain predominantly white.
Manchester has a growing and more visible Hispanic immigrant population. A store selling Mexican food products has opened on Manchester's Main Street.
Hispanic immigrants seem drawn to the affordable rental housing available along Route 30, said Manchester resident Tim Feeser, special assistant to Gouge.
The region has numerous municipal and county parks, and the sports programs run by the North Carroll Recreation Council are popular with youth. The county is cleaning up the ballfields and replacing fences at Cape Horn Park on Route 30 between the two towns. The larger Leister Park near Hampstead is being developed.
North Carroll families also flock to the private Four Seasons Sports Complex on Hampstead-Mexico Road, which has a fitness center and year-round sports leagues, including a swim team. And for golfers, there are two courses in the area: Piney Branch Golf Club, just south of Hampstead, and the public Oakmont Green Golf Course.
Both Hampstead and Manchester have their own police agencies and volunteer fire departments.
For those looking for jobs in the region, several large companies have a presence there. The men's clothier Jos. A. Banks has its corporate headquarters at the Hampstead town line. Its call center recently advertised openings for full- and part-time jobs.
Sweetheart Cup Co. opened a 1-million-square foot warehouse and distribution center on the outskirts of Hampstead around 2000. And the Hampstead Industrial Exchange and the North Carroll Business Park lie along Route 30 in the town.
A recent county economic development study recommended more industrial growth along the Route 30 corridor. And more jobs will require additional schools and water and sewer capacity, said Hampstead Mayor Haven N. Shoemaker Jr.