By Jim Brocker
Friday, March 18, 2011; 7:43 PM
Andrew Leighton is not a golfer, but the prospect of living on a golf course was intriguing when he and his family discovered the Cross Creek neighborhood. Now, Leighton, his wife, Jackie and their two children enjoy the view from their home adjacent to the course, located along the border between Prince George's and Montgomery counties.
"Sitting on the deck, watching the golfers play, is very nice," said Leighton, 42, a native of Jamaica. The Leightons had lived in the nearby Cherry Hill Road area and had been looking for a bigger house. They found spacious, modern homes in Cross Creek, along with what Leighton called a very welcoming neighborhood, great for raising a family.
"Our neighbors' children attend the same Catholic school (St. Francis International School in Silver Spring) as my kids, so we've got a carpool thing going. There are six or seven homes nearby where I know everyone," he said.
Cross Creek has attracted families such as the Leightons as well as other residents who say the upscale development, located just off Interstate 95 and minutes from the Beltway, is perfect for commuting between Washington and Baltimore. And residents have found that once they return home from work, they are greeted by friendly neighbors and enjoy plenty of outlets to satisfy active lifestyles.
Many were attracted by the golf course, a challenging 6,300-yard par 70 layout along both sides of the Little Paint Branch stream. The course winds its way through the community, mainly behind the homes, and motorists need to be wary of "cart crossings" as golfers traverse the streets.
Patsy Koehler and her husband, Bob, avid golfers who had lived nearby off Fairland Road, made the move to the community in 2003. "We loved it," Patsy Koehler recalled. "Loved the golf course, loved the houses, loved it all."
"For a community course, it's beautiful," she said. "Big trees, greenery . . . a lot of natural environment because the builder didn't cut down the trees. You would never know it was in the middle of suburbia."
When the Koehlers aren't golfing, they're often watching other golfers from their home just off one of the fairways. They also spend time with friends in the neighborhood. Residents say the open interior layouts of the homes, built mostly by Ryan Homes and NV Homes, are perfect for socializing. "A marvelous house to entertain because it's not compartmentalized," said Bob Koehler, 58, whose home features an open floor plan, with large windows and a high ceiling.
Patsy Koehler, 63, serves as the president of the Cross Creek Club Homeowners Association, which sponsors a host of community events designed to unify residents in the development, which lacks continuous street connections because of the golf course and the natural areas. In addition to a spring festival and picnic, the association has held international dinners and jazz nights.
That has created an atmosphere that residents say encourages community engagement. Brian McDaniel, 41, a lawyer and avid golfer, said the course was a draw for him, as was Cross Creek's location, which keeps him within reach of his D.C. office as well as courthouses in Rockville, Upper Marlboro and Baltimore.
But McDaniel said Cross Creek is more than just a convenient place to live. He recalls his neighbors' friendliness while his family was moving in about three years ago and says the positive vibe has continued. "Our community is very diverse. There's a number of different ethnicities. We've all been very respectful of one another . . . learning about other cultures." McDaniel and his wife, Felecia, a fitness expert, and their 3-year-old daughter have found that there is plenty to do as a family. In addition to the golf course and neighborhood parks, the nearby Fairland Community Recreation Center features gymnastics and aquatics, and the Gardens Ice House offers skating. "You can't go wrong if you want to stay active," he said.
McDaniel and Leighton work with Koehler on the association's board, which serves more than 600 homeowners.
Residents can also swim in the neighborhood pool. The golf course is privately owned and operated, though Cross Creek residents can buy memberships at a discount. The course makes its clubhouse available for community events, General Manager Brian Boltz said.
Cross Creek, which lies on land that had been used for gravel mining years ago, was developed in phases, starting in the late 1990s, and it wasn't completed until the next decade as different sections gained regulatory approvals from the two counties.
Sharon DeGrouchy, 65, an agent for Long & Foster, moved to the community in 2000 with her husband, Ron. The DeGrouchys are golf enthusiasts and, like many residents at the time, had their house built to their specifications. Sharon DeGrouchy said the builders offered buyers incentives for upgrades. Many houses have a morning room with a bump-out basement. Most homes have four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths "at least," she said.
In 1998, bigger houses were selling for $289,000 to $300,000, DeGrouchy said, and homes constructed in later years were going for as much as $700,000 during the height of the housing boom. Now, prices have fallen, "and there are quite a few short sales and a handful of foreclosures," she said. That has created wide price ranges; for example, one house was selling this year for $570,000, while a smaller dwelling, a short sale, was going for $360,000.
DeGrouchy said property values are likely to appreciate because of the neighborhood's proximity to the Intercounty Connector, just north of the community. This segment is scheduled to open in fall 2011 or spring 2012. Part of the highway borders the 14th fairway of the golf course. The long-planned Konterra development, which will be located just north of Cross Creek, will eventually bring new housing, shops and offices to the Laurel area. McDaniel said he was looking forward to the high-end retailers that Konterra is expected to attract.
ICC construction was a big issue for Cross Creek residents, and while some see the highway as a plus, others' views have been affected by the construction. In addition, part of the 14th hole had been constructed on the ICC right-of-way, and golfers joined with the neighborhood association to lobby the State Highway Administration and elected officials to retain the hole and mitigate the highway's impact on players and homeowners. "We were able to save the hole and get [the SHA] to build a sound barrier," said Paul G. Zurkowski, 78, a golfer and Cross Creek resident who chaired the homeowners' committee. SHA licensed the use of its property to the golf course and used only what it needed for the highway.
Since the Montgomery and Prince George's county line cuts through the community, the area is served by two county governments, two school systems and two police departments. Sharon Wilder serves as the neighborhood watch chairwoman, recruiting block captains for training by the Prince George's County police. The captains meet with the police every other month.
"We don't live in an ideal world, that's for sure," said Wilder, 55. "But compared to the surrounding communities, we have very little crime."