Where We Live
Diverse Paths Cross in Md. Neighborhood
Saturday, April 15, 2006
A few weeks ago, a moving van pulled into Montgomery County's South Four Corners community and deposited a young couple at their new house on Brunett Avenue. For Brian Barth, 26, the neighborhood felt like home long before that day, though.
His grandparents bought the split-foyer house in 1956 for $18,000. His mother, Carol, grew up there -- one of 49 baby boomers on the same street.
Barth values those neighborhood roots. "I love it," he said. "That's one of the reasons we're here."
The Defense Department employee pointed out the next-door neighbor's lawn to his fiancée, Janelle Everett. "I used to mow their grass when I was a little boy."
Across the street, Vince Kensil said he, too, felt an instant affinity for South Four Corners. The place reminds him of his childhood in an ethnic neighborhood in Philadelphia. "We have all kinds of colors and ages and religions here," he said. "We end up talking, and going inside for something to eat, and next thing you know, we're fast friends."
Kensil, an insurance consultant, enjoys gathering neighbors around the 150-year-old oak tree in the back yard of the split-level he shares with his partner, Ponthep Chattaviriya. A native of Thailand, Chattaviriya is a professional chef who prefers the nickname "Pa," which means "forest" in Thai. The menu for their guests might feature gai todd, which is a Thai version of fried chicken, or perhaps a whole roast suckling pig.
It was nearby Sligo Creek Park's hike-and-bike trails that led David West and Sandy Carin West, both teachers, to their Cape Cod in South Four Corners.
Twelve years ago, they rode their bikes from Rock Creek Park to explore various neighborhoods. "We wanted to buy a house where we could stay," Sandy Carin West said.
Despite its location near the intersection of University Boulevard and Colesville Road -- the second most dangerous in Maryland, according to State Farm Insurance statistics -- Sandy Carin West says there is a small-town feel to her subdivision. "You can walk to Safeway from here. And they know you. It's at a huge, busy intersection, but they know you at Safeway."
The South Four Corners Citizens Association rivals any community group in the region for its level of activism. There is a neighborhood yard sale each fall. A babysitting co-op became the catalyst for an annual Community Day, now in its seventh year. "The moms motivate each other," David West said. "In 2003, they raised $12,000 to pay for new playground equipment at the park on Forest Glen Road."
The group also is working to build a tighter neighborhood watch organization. Block captains are being recruited and they are working with residents to develop communication systems. There are other activities and events on the agenda as well. But David West, the association's vice president, sums up the community's foremost concern in two words: Beltway expansion.
"They're talking about putting four new lanes on the Beltway, including a toll lane with 'fly-overs,' some sort of crazy ramps to get people to the toll lanes," he said.