Where We Live

Patuxent Manor, Where You Can See Stars and Hear Pins

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By Tony Glaros
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, November 29, 2008

Betsy and Matt Cizek enjoyed living in their tidy brick Cape Cod in northern College Park, but their sky-watching hobby was stymied by smog and suburban lights.

So in 1984, they moved to Patuxent Manor, an affordable slice of Davidsonville in southwestern Anne Arundel County. The community sits off Route 214, Central Avenue, about 15 miles east of the District and 10 miles west of the Chesapeake Bay.

"The starry, starry nights out here are unbelievable," said Betsy, 56, a retired Prince George's County school teacher who now works as a substitute. "It is truly another world."

The three-bedroom, 1,900-square-foot rancher they bought cost $86,000, far less than houses were selling for elsewhere in Davidsonville, known for its mansions on multi-acre lots. "We expanded the kitchen in 1993, and we recently remodeled the basement. We removed the '70s-era paneling, replaced it with drywall, recessed lighting and added half a bath. You do things when you can afford to do them," she said.

The neighborhood contains houses that are attractive to "moderate-income" buyers, said Russ Brown, an agent with Exit Realty in Annapolis. "They're not really large houses. They're smaller ranchers, split-foyers and split-ranchers."

Many of the houses have been repaired and renovated by their owners, not contractors -- often very nicely, Brown said.

Matt Cizek said his neighbors hold a wide range of jobs. "We've got a roofer, a guy who works for Amtrak, a guy who works as an auto salvager, a real estate agent and a day-care mom."

Along with more space and a clear view of the heavens, the Cizeks found good schools for their children, Christina and Andrew, now grown. "I was very pleased with the education they received," Betsy Cizek said. "This school district is very desirable to many people who move to Anne Arundel County. South River High was a Blue Ribbon School for many years."

Matt Cizek, 55, uses Central Avenue to commute to Capitol Hill. "There's usually no morning traffic," he said, "because I don't get into work until 9:30."

Davidsonville, an unincorporated area, has retained its semi-rural character. With no public water or sewer anywhere in the 21035 Zip code, the community has limited commercial development and no high-density housing. Matt Cizek, a D.C. native who grew up in Prince George's County, said one of the realities of country life is dealing with the occasional power outage -- including some that drag on for days.

"The septic and the well systems go out," he said, "unless you have a generator."

Betsy said: "I remember when my parents would drive from Silver Spring to visit us. They complained that we were in the boondocks. Maybe so, but this place is absolutely wonderful."

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