Where We Live

Harmony That Echoes From the Streets

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By Ann Cameron Siegal
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, October 18, 2008

Residents of Tanglewood, a Silver Spring neighborhood where the street names have a musical theme, seem to be effective at restoring harmony when the occasional sour note intrudes.

Beyond Beethoven Boulevard, Brahms Avenue and Schubert Way, past cul-de-sacs named for Mozart, Gershwin and Stravinsky, the Intercounty Connector is chipping away at the community's northern edge near Trebleclef Lane. Residents are lobbying for an effective and aesthetically pleasing sound barrier.

Down Memory Lane, after beavers toppled trees, built a dam and clogged the drain in the storm water pond -- causing water to rise 10 feet above appropriate levels -- residents worked with county officials to relocate the critters and install a beaver-deterrent fence.

In 2004, when full-size Metro buses began rolling through the community -- about 70 a day -- residents protested, wrote letters and made phone calls. It didn't take long to get those buses replaced with 13 smaller Ride-On-style ones that could make the tight turns better, with less noise and fumes -- albeit less service.

More than a decade ago, when car thefts were frequent, Dave Evans helped start a neighborhood watch that relies on random, round-the-clock vehicle patrols.

Tanglewood prefers a noticeable presence on the street rather than the block-captain system many other neighborhoods use. "We don't try to tackle people," Evans said. "We try to interrupt what they are doing and get the police here."

The program has several dozen teams of volunteers. Using scanners, spotlights, marked vehicles and night-vision equipment, they have been so successful in deterring crime that Joy Patil, a community service officer with the county police, said: "I refer other communities to them because they do such a good job. It's not a vigilante type of thing. They're the extra eyes and ears of the community."

The community's concerns go beyond its borders. "We are very involved with construction around the area and are active with the planning board," said Bob McFadden, president of the Tanglewood homeowners recreation association.

Of concern is a proposed 150-foot bicycle and pedestrian tunnel slated to run under the Intercounty Connector from Briggs Chaney Road to Fairland Drive. "We said 'Whoa!' when we saw that," McFadden said. "It seems like a crime waiting to happen."

Built in the 1980s, Tanglewood consists of 826 townhouses, single-family houses and condominium units in multifamily buildings. Winding tree-lined streets, most of which end in cul-de-sacs, are dotted with curbside mailboxes. Portable basketball hoops are common.

All residents pay $260 a year to the recreation association, which oversees the upkeep of the common grounds and amenities. In addition, there are two sub-associations -- one for Ashley Place, with 250 townhouses, and one for Stockbridge, which combines another 250 townhouses and piggy-back condos. Each of those has its own bylaws and fees.

The homeowners association for the single-family houses fell apart about 15 years ago, so rules there are a bit more casual.

When McFadden and his family moved from New Jersey to Tanglewood in 1986, he said, "This felt right." Their daughter was 7 at the time, so the pool, swim team and walkability of the community were very appealing.

The children are grown and McFadden is retired from Marriott, but he and his wife, Ruth, have stayed. "We know everybody," he said.

Also, it's apparent that he is having too much fun organizing community-wide events. At the community day in June, there were pony rides, giant slides and lots of free food. Three times during the summer, the association sponsors what McFadden called the "mayhem" of beach ball nights at the pool with a disc jockey, more free food and a big batch of free water toys for the children.

"We're always thinking of something new to do," he said. This year, a musical group called Family Traditions highlighted one of the free concerts on the green.

In addition to the pool and clubhouse, there are volleyball and basketball courts and a playground. The playground, part of the county-owned Tanglewood Park, is mowed by the association.

"We try to invest money every year in a preventative maintenance program so there are no big one-time expenses," McFadden said. "We spend a bit more up front to save money over the long term."

For example, a good-quality pool cover saves on maintenance. Automatic flushing devices in the poolhouse bathrooms save on water.

In the early 1990s, the association created a paved street hockey rink -- "a fad at the time," McFadden said. As its use has declined, plans are underway to rework the area for other purposes, possibly a dog park.

For Joan Boyek, a 25-year resident, Tanglewood's charm is its cozy atmosphere. "In small towns, you try to be neighborly. This is like that."

Gesturing toward townhouses around her, Boyek touted the international nature of the community. "They're from Zaire; another is from Peru, another from Sierra Leone." She saves her biggest kudos for neighbors Misael and Mercedes Medina, who moved to Tanglewood six years ago from El Salvador. "We look out for each other," said Boyek, who retired after 42 years with the Washington Hospital Center.

Tanglewood's musically oriented street names serve as prompts for Boyek's stories of her Pennsylvania childhood, when she often performed with her musical family by playing the piano at weddings. And now, she lives near Musicmaster Lane and Piano Way.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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