When F. Leroy Houck bought 379 acres of southern Prince George's County woods and farmland in 1965, it was with the idea that he would develop the site when county road and sewer projects were completed in 1972.
Now, 13 years later than he expected, the county has approved Houck's plans for a massive single-family house subdivision, coming on the heels of those same road and sewer projects, which are only now being built.
"It's been a long time coming," Houck said last week.
Houck said southern Prince George's County is ripe for development, and he is betting that his 545-unit single-family house subdivision, large by the county's standards, will find buyers -- part of an increasing demand for homes outside the beltway.
County planners say Houck's Accokeek Village is the first subdivision of its size to be approved for the area, now made up mostly of farms and scattered single-family homes; but they say the area could be the site of increased residential development because of improved roads and a waste-disposal agreement with Charles County that has paved the way for construction of sewer lines.
"The whole Washington area has been developing in a spiral outwards from the District," Houck said. "The northern part of P.G. is getting crowded. There is a market demand for houses beyond the beltway, and we are just four miles outside of it."
Almost a decade ago, Prince George's and Charles counties reached an agreement to run sewer lines from southern Prince George's into a waste-disposal treatment plant in Charles that was built six years ago, said Houck, whose property is only a few miles from the Charles County border.
"It is just now gotten to the point where sewer lines can be brought through," he said of his property. "We couldn't have developed without water and sewer lines. We had no choice but to wait."
The counties' waste-disposal project was not the only thing Houck said he was waiting for. The state had planned for years to widen and extend Indian Head Highway, but only recently has construction started on the section that borders Houck's property.
State officials say that that section of the highway will be completed in about six months.
Houck said he will begin building homes in a year, after he finishes constructing water and sewer lines. He said the homes will sell for more than $100,000 each.
Last year, Houck proposed that his land be developed under the Farmland Preservation Act, under which he would have retained one-half of his land for farming in exchange for denser development on the other half, according to Alan S. Hirsch, an urban designer for Prince George's.
Hirsch said his staff discouraged the proposal because only a small section of the land actually would have been used for farming, so Houck voluntarily withdrew the plan.
Houck had proposed earlier that Accokeek Village have 577 homes, Hirsh said, but the Prince George's County Planning Board cut that to 545 before approving the plan last week.