With a toast and a song, the future residents of Maryland's first co-housing community in Libertytown broke ground this week for their brave new neighborhood.

Partners in the Liberty Village project envision 34 private homes, a communally owned meeting house and a no-cars design to encourage neighborly interaction.

They broke ground last Sunday after six years of planning.

"It's been a long road," said Paul Kilduff of Baltimore, whose home in the Frederick County development should be finished by next spring.

The project is based on a Danish co-housing concept. The 26-acre development will have 34 duplex units, 16 acres of open space and a three-story community building.

Parking will be at the outer edge, preserving the interior for pedestrian walkways. Future residents said the design will foster a sense of community.

The community will share ownership of the common house, a place to share meals and hold meetings. The common house also will include guest rooms, a greenhouse, laundry, television room, workshop, deck with hot tub, year-round pool and outdoor play area.

Sharing meals will be optional.

Dentist Ken Film, one of five original organizers, said he expects the families of Liberty Village to be closer than those in his Williamsport neighborhood.

"We're surrounded by people but we can't get anyone to help us," Film said. "We can't even get someone to feed our cat when we go away."

He said 16 of the units were spoken for and six to eight other people were considering becoming partners in the $5.6 million development.

The partnership fee of $6,000 is regarded as a down payment. Home costs will average $140,000, according to Film's wife, Teresa.

The community will be ruled by consensus, Film said. He said the challenges of building the new community already have brought the partners closer together.

At the groundbreaking, adults and children cheered as they enthusiastically dug into the dirt. They sang a song, "Home in Liberty Village," then broke into "There's No Housing Like Co-Housing."

"This is the beginning of a life for all of us that will live on even after we're gone," Jay Perry, a partner from New Jersey, said in a toast. "There's going to be lots and lots of life lived here and we're starting it right now."

The project is the first co-housing development to break ground in Maryland, Teresa Film said. Other groups plan similar projects in Montgomery County and Northern Virginia, she said.

IN THE NEWS . . . Forty-four awards were presented to Washington area home builders this week at the 39th Annual Finest for Family Living Awards ceremonies, sponsored by The Washington Post's advertising department, New Homes Guide and building industry associations in Maryland, Northern Virginia and the District.

Here are the winners:

Special achievement in affordable housing: Bozzuto Construction Co., for the rental apartments at Morningside in Jessup.

Small-lot single-family detached homes with lot size less than 7,000 square feet, costing $150,000 to $200,000 and $200,000 to $250,000: Robert K. Wormald Inc., for the Wakefield and Cotswald models at Mill Station at Worman's Hill in Frederick, respectively; $250,000 to $300,000: NVR Homes Inc., for the Ravenwood model at Clopper's Mill in Germantown; $300,000 to $350,000: Rocky Gorge Communities, for the Carlyle model at Kentlands in Gaithersburg.

Single-family detached homes under $150,000: William L. Berry & Co., for the Brighton model at Oaklea in Clinton; $150,000 to $200,000, $200,000 to $250,000 and $350,000 to $400,000 with lot size 7,000 square feet or more: NVR Homes, for the Windsor model at Simmons Acres in Accokeek, the Zachary model at Spring Ridge in Frederick and the Georgetown model at McKendree Estates in Glenwood, respectively; $250,000 to $300,000: Williamsburg Builders, for the Courtney Joyce model at Woodlot in Columbia; $300,000 to $350,000: Charleston Homes, for the Chapel Hill model at Farmington Woods in Accokeek, and Mid-Atlantic Builders Inc., for the Somerset model at Glenn Estates in Lanham; $450,000 to $550,000: Gulick Group, for the Wyndham model at Stuart's Creek in Reston; $550,000 to $700,000: Balls Hill Road Joint Venture, for the Astor model at Maplewood in McLean; more than $700,000: Renaissance Housing Corp., for the Grand Monet model at the Estates at Wickens Hunt in Vienna; more than $1 million: Associated Builders Inc., for the La Bourgogne model at Woodlea Mill in McLean.

Custom homes from $300,000 to $500,000 and $750,000 to $1 million: Mitchell, Best & Visnic, for homes at Cattail Creek in Glenwood and at Avenel in Potomac, respectively.

Residential remodeling: Mitchell Best & Goldsborough Inc., for a home in Potomac.

Attached housing under $100,000: Streuver Brothers Eccles & Rouse, for a development at Farring Heights in Baltimore; $100,000 to $135,000: Trafalgar House, for the Kent model at Kingsbrook Ridge in Bristow, Va.; $135,000 to $170,000: NVR, for the Fairmont model at Bowling Brook in Laurel; $170,000 to $200,000: Toll Brothers, for the Bradbury model at Highlands at Farmwell Hunt in Ashburn; $200,000 to $250,000: US Home Corp., for the Augustana model at Woodmore South in Mitchellville; $250,000 to $350,000: Michael Harris Homes, for the Jefferson model at Tower Oaks and Pulte Home Corp., for the Stratford model at Virginia Center in Vienna.

New condominiums from $75,000 to $100,000: Echo Glen Construction, for the Symphony B model at Echo Glen in Frederick; $100,000 to $140,000: the Christopher Cos., for the Concord model at Sutton Ridge in Reston, and Trafalgar House, for the Arden model at Abington in Columbia; $140,000 to $180,000: Pulte Home, for the Caterbury model at the Village in Falls Church; $180,000 to $200,000: IDI Md. Inc., for the R model at Turnberry Courts in Leisure World in Silver Spring; more than $200,000: Eakin/Youngentob Associates, for the McLean model at Courthouse Hill in Arlington.

Rental apartment complex: Bozzuto Construction Group, for the Apartments at Harbor Point in Reston, and Paradigm Construction, for the Meridian at the Courthouse.

Retirement community environment: Mitchell & Best Inc., for Maplewood Park Place in Bethesda.

Energy efficiency: Mitchell, Best & Visnic Inc., for the Cattail Creek project in Glenwood.

Site/land planning of an existing community up to 25 acres: Eakin/Youngentab Associates, for Courthouse Hill; 25 to 125 acres: Stanley Martin Cos., for Regency Station in Fairfax Station; more than 125 acres: Trafalgar House, for South Riding in South Riding.

Special achievement in overall amenities/environment of an existing community: Trafalgar House, for the town hall and pool at South Riding.

Special achievement in resort planning or design: Kettler Forlines, for Stonegate at Seven Springs, Pa.

Lifetime achievement: Robert L. Mitchell.

PERSONNEL . . . The Virginia Association of Realtors named Stephen A. Hoover of Roanoke 1996 Realtor of the Year, and elected Century 21 Royal Properties' Renee B. Miller of Great Falls to be president-elect of the association for 1997 . . . The Suburban Maryland Building Industry Association announced its award-winning builders for 1996: single-family environmental builder of the year, Jeff Robins of Jeffco Development Corp. of Rockville; multifamily environmental builder of the year, Tom Bozzuto of the Bozzuto Group of Greenbelt; environmental developer of the year, David Flanagan of Elm Street Development in McLean . . . Ryland Group Inc. promoted Thomas J. Gancsos to be president of the mid-Atlantic region for Ryland Homes . . . The Building Owners and Managers Association International named Thomas D. Harrison vice president of finance.

CALENDAR . . . Pardoe and Graham Real Estate is sponsoring a free home-buying seminar, at 10:30 a.m. next Saturday at 310 King St., Alexandria. For more information, call 703-253-4524. CAPTION: Christopher Cos.' Concord model at Sutton Ridge in Reston was honored in the new condominiums from $100,000 to $140,000 category.