Inside-the-Beltway homes with large yards — providing what resident Cyra Doty called “room to breathe” — are a major attraction of Wilburdale, a community of 108 homes, originally built as modest, one-story ramblers on lots of half an acre or more. The houses, most from the 1950s, are easily enlarged; many residents have bumped up or out, and nearly a dozen homes have been razed for construction of conspicuously larger residences.
Interest in further developing the community peaked in 2003, when residents considered whether to sell their houses to a developer as a block. Chatelain said the neighborhood’s response was unequivocal: “We voted overwhelmingly against it.”
Pressure from development remains an issue for Wilburdale as the community deals with storm-water runoff exacerbated by infill development both inside and outside the neighborhood. Sriwardene, currently president of the Wilburdale Civic Association, said the group was recently one of several that successfully fought a proposed four-house development on nearby Backlick Road because of runoff concerns.
Property maintenance on a few homes, including one that was abandoned, occasionally has been an issue, Sriwardene said. “But there are some beautiful homes and yards here. By and large, people take pride in their community.”
The neighborhood gets no cut-through traffic — it is shaped like an elongated loop with one egress off Backlick Road — although its wide streets lure some residents to drive too fast. (Sriwardene said one resident places “fake geese” in the street to slow things down.) More often, though, Wilburdale’s pleasant, one-mile loop attracts joggers and walkers.
“At 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., a lot of people walk the neighborhood because it’s closed with wide streets and not too many cars,” said Jim Trollinger, a real estate agent and 42-year resident. “What you have is friendly people who often stop and talk.”
Wilburdale residents also look out for one another, Trollinger said, recalling that many years ago his daughter, while still in grade school and with her dog in tow, drove the family pickup truck for a spin around the neighborhood. Trollinger’s neighbors quickly helped him bring that excursion to a safe end.
The neighborhood, like many in the area, has seen a demographic shift in recent years, with an influx of younger families and of families from other cultures. “They’re coming for the same reasons that brought me: the quality of life, room to stretch your legs and the beautiful park at the end of the street,” Sriwardene said.