When Willard Kruhm, a farmer-turned-real estate agent, looks at the large tracts of still-vacant land along Montgomery County's eastern border, he pictures eagerly a future landscape filled with shopping centers, industrial parks and housing subdivisions.
But his nephew, Fred Kruhm, a government worker and weekend farmer, looks at the same land and sees remote, uncluttered territory, where one's neighbors neither have to be seen nor heard.
Willard Kruhm and Fred Kruhm, both born into a family which has lived near Burtonsville for at least five generations, symbolize the opposing views in the debate over the future of this area on the northern edge of the Washington-area suburbs.
Not long ago, Willard Kruhm sold the last 13 acres of the more than 90 acres he once owned for half-acre home lots. "I guess I've sold most of the commercial land in Burtonsville," Kruhm who is also a real estate agent, said proudly, pointing to a two-block-long stretch of storefronts two miles from the original family farm.
But from his new home on his own 15 acres next to the original 600-acre family farm, Fred Kruhm views the subdivisions, which men like his uncle have brought as close as the nearest ridge, like approaching hostile regiments.
"A lot of people moved out here to have the best of both worlds-rural living and the amenities of a city close by," said the younger Kruhm. "I don't think many of them wanted to see the city brought to them."
"People like my uncle want to put up a house everywhere," Fred said of Willard, frowning. "Everybody has his selfish interests."
But Willard dismisses that assessment with a confident chuckle. "They'll talk about keeping their land until they have a chance to make some money off it themselves," he responded. Over the past few years, men like Willard Kruhm are making more and more money from the real estate in eastern Montgomery.
Neglected in the development boom that took off toward points north and west along 1-270 during the 1960s and further isolated by an eight-year sewer moratorium, in the early 1970s, the gently rolling former pastures of eastern Montgomery have become the county's newest growth region.
Rte. 29, linking Silver Spring, Columbia and Baltimore, slices through 10 miles of Montgomery, just a few miles west of the I-95 Baltimore-Washington development zone in Prince George's.
A four-lane load-scheduled eventually for expansion to six lanes in Montgomery-Rte. 29 cuts to 20 minutes the commuting time between Columbia in Howard County and Silver Spring-and its Metro station. The ride is even shorter from Burtonsville, which sits at the crossroads of Rte. 29 and 198, a cross-state connection to Annapolis.
In the next decade, planners believe, about 10,000 new residents will move into the area primarily in clustered residential-commercial centers and large-lot developments. A recent planning board market analysis estimated 12,300 to 18,800 new jobs would result from anticipated commercial and industrial development there.
More than 2,000 apartments and town houses are under construction or in some phase of development in the area, according to the country's housing office. One of the newest projects, the 529-lot Snowden's Mill subdivision of town houses and single-family houses, was approved by the planning board last week.
This conversion of rural landscape into quarter-acre homesteads is a dramatic shift from the vast farms that originally were spread across the area.
One of them, the Kruhm family farm, started with 600 acres more than 100 years ago. Willard, along with Fred's father, Norman, worked on it, transporting five truckloads of corn, cabbage, green beans, potatoes and other crops to market every week.
Norman eventually bought the farm, Willard struck out on his own for poultry farming, and Fred and his brother Larry, Norman's sons, became the family's next generation of farmers. Instead of carrying on the tradition, the brothers sought government jobs. Eventually when costs got too high, their father followed them. The land went fallow.
Willard Kruhm, now a dapper 76-year-old, saw the changes coming 20 years ago. In 1960, he gave up poultry farming and his egg delivery route to become a real estate salesman. By then he had bought more than 90 acres of his own, and land was selling for $2,000 to $3,000 an acre.
He was paid $10,000 an acre for the last 13 acres he recently sold, and the developer will turn them into half-acre home lots for $25,000 each, he said.
Homes in Maydale, a subdivision named after his first wife, cost from $125,000 to $190,000 now, he said.
Four years ago, Willard Kruhm sold his own farmhouse for $85,000 and moved into an apartment in Silver Spring.Today the farmhouse is worth $190,000, he said.
"As long as it develops up decent, it doesn't make me sad," Willard Kruhm said. "I'd hate to see something come up sloppy . . . You can't afford to be a farmer around here anymore, unless you go big, like more than 250 acres. A man is better to sit back and rock."
Fred Kruhm, a 40-year-old with a weather-beaten face, has never wanted to leave farming entirely behind him. He leaves his job as general manager of the National Institues of Health Credit Union in Bethesda for weekend farming in muddy bluejeans aboard a tractor.
Eight years ago, he and his wife, Jackie bought their land next to the 90 remaining acres of the family farm on Kruhm Road, and spent the next 18 months building their own modern home.
One weekends, Kruhm and his brother Larry, who lives in the original farmhouse, cut and bale hay, mend fences and tend to their horse-boarding business.
"Ours is more of a hobby farm than anything," Fred Kruhm said. "We're slightly better than breaking even and that's all we want."
About a mile off in one direction, is Spencerville, named after Willard and Norman Kruhm's great-grandfather. In that small town is the general store, where Willard Kruhm went to work when he was only 16.
Not far off in the other direction is the white frame two-room school Willard attended as a boy. "I sold it, we have an antique shop there now," he said. Next door, the 79-acre field for Lions Club turkey shoots and oyster roasts will be "developed up" for housing in 10 years, he said.
"That will come down, it'll go commercial," he said of the stately old oak close to the Rte. 29 intersection where a sign, "For Sale-Willard Kruhm Real Estate," poses on another vacant lot.
"I brought it up at a meeting that there should be industrial from Rte. 29 to the Prince George's line, and a lot of people hollered," Kruhm said with a self-satisfied grin.
Fred Kruhm was not there, but he would have hollered too. "The development is picking up now so that you don't know where it's going to stop." Fred Kruhm said. "I can already hear the traffic on Rte. 29. They're starting to widen Spencerville Road, and anytime you do that, You invite business into the area . . . I realize you need places for an expanding population. I'm just selfish. I don't want 'em all around me."
Willard and Fred Kruhm do not trade many barbs about each other. Willard simply nods confidently and says that when the right money comes along, Fred will sell. Fred and his wife shake their heads in dismay. They say they "don't understand" why Willard seems to care so little about the rural life of his childhood.
On their 15 acres, the Kruhms raise a steer, cultivate a garden, and Jackie Kruhm rides her two horses.
"Sometimes I just need to get away from people," Fred Kruhm said quietly. "If I've had a bad day at the office, I'll put a couple apples in my pocket, strap on a pistol and go off into the woods." CAPTION: Picture 1, Fred Kruhm, a government employe and weekend farmer, continues his rural life style on a 15-acre farm, next to the original 60-acre family spread. By John McDonnell-The Washington Post; Picture 2, Fred Kruhm: "People like my uncle want to put a house everywhere." By John McDonnell-The Washington Post