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Derwood Station is a former tree farm that’s growing families now

Where We Live | Derwood Station in Montgomery County, Md.

September 14th, 2018 - The Derwood Station neighborhood of Rockville, Maryland Wapello Drive in the Derwood Station neighborhood of Rockville, Maryland. Justin T. Gellerson for The Washington Post (Justin T. Gellerson/For The Washington Post)

Derwood Station is a residential neighborhood along the northwestern border of Rock Creek Park, midway between Rockville to the south and Gaithersburg to the north.

Ariel Khizgilov moved from Tysons a year ago. He grew up in Rockville and said he knew Derwood Station “as super serene and quiet while being close to restaurants and outdoor activities. It’s a true middle-class neighborhood. I feel there aren’t many left in the area. Everybody looks out for one another.”

Hal Magruder, CEO, owner and chairman of Magruder Cos., built the subdivision in three phases in the 1980s.

Three homeowner associations (HOAs) manage the community and plan special events, like a barbecue on Oct. 6. “Me, Laszlo [Harsanyi] and Nick [Radonic] are organizing this fourth annual gathering, and we’ll be cooking,” said David Peterson, one of the HOA presidents. His family was the fourth to move into the neighborhood in 1981.

Distinctive street names — Monona, Grinnell, Indianola, Wapello, Titonka, Oskaloosa — come from cities in Iowa, and Mahaska is a county name. “Magruder grew up in Iowa, and I suppose these are a throwback to his childhood,” said Radonic, a former HOA president who moved there 15 years ago. “I was driving across country and spotted the cities on a map.”

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The streets gently roll, and some end in cul de sacs. There are 463 single-family houses — mostly Colonials and a few ranches — and 36 townhouses.

Former tree farm : Lots are about a quarter acre, and spacious yards lie between the houses and along the sidewalks. Two natural gas rights of way provide a large stretch of green space frequented by dog walkers and kids playing ball. There are many common areas managed by the HOAs and amenities such as a tot lot shared by two of the organizations, soccer goals and a baseball backstop. The Gude hiking trail to Lake Needwood is popular.

The property is a former tree farm, and mature trees line the streets, offering shade on hot days. Many are county-owned Bradford pear trees, though, which are pretty in bloom but problematic when the middle- to old-age limbs come down in a storm.

The county aggressively plants trees, including swamp white oak, sycamore, willow oak and black gum. “County arborists favor a full tree cover because it keeps the temperature down,” Radonic said.

“We also have a rain garden with nearly 3,000 native plants to slow storm-water runoff. The Crabbs Branch Conservation Landscaping Project was funded by the Chesapeake Bay Trust in a grant administered by the Rock Creek Conservancy. We care a lot about our common areas and develop multiyear plans to keep them up. Volunteers maintain the landscape,” said Harsanyi, another HOA president.

“Plenty of deer roam around, and occasionally we see fox,” said Syd Levitus, who moved there in 1990 with his wife, Diane. “The deer jump fences, eat everything and are kind of a nuisance. One gave birth to a fawn in a flower bed. She left it during the day and came back at night.”

“We’re an international community with many cultures and nationalities,” Peterson said.

Levitus agreed: “Our kids meet people from all over. To me, Derwood Station is an undiscovered area.”

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Traffic and noise : “Residential development is taking place one to two miles north, near the Shady Grove Metro station on Redland Road and Crabbs Branch Way, and may pose traffic problems in the future,” Harsanyi said. “The county’s Shady Grove Sector Plan is designed to build residences with amenities nearby in the hope that people will use the Metro instead of driving.”

Right now, the impact of traffic and vehicular noise depends on where you live.

“Our neighborhood is mostly quiet, but in certain locations, the noise is noticeable every day. Some neighbors obtained permission to build a high noise-deadening fence along their rear property lines,” Peterson said.

“We don’t hear it, and it’s not a problem,” Levitus said.

Radonic added, “Having lived previously beside a busier street, this is bliss.”

Shopping : There’s a Safeway in King Farm Village Center in Rockville, MOM’s Organic Market in Gaithersburg and Wegmans in Germantown. Retail and commercial outlets line Rockville Pike.

Living there : Derwood Station in Derwood, Md., Zip code 20855, is roughly bounded by Rock Creek Park on the east, East Gude Drive on the south, Crabbs Branch Way on the west and Crabbs Branch Stream Valley Park to the north.

According to Filly Kotsatos, a 21-year resident and Long & Foster agent, sales are steady, and prices have increased in the last two years. Four houses are for sale, ranging from a four-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse for $415,000 to a five-bedroom, three-bathroom single-family Colonial for $599,995. One three-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse is under contract for $380,000. In the past year, 11 homes sold, ranging from a three-bedroom, four-bathroom townhouse for $381,500 to a four-bedroom, three-bathroom single-family Colonial for $700,000.

Schools : Candlewood and College Gardens elementary; Shady Grove and Julius West middle; and Magruder and Richard Montgomery high.

Transit: “It’s not as close to the District as Tysons or Bethesda, but it’s more than doable,” Khizgilov said. “There are trade-offs, and living here hits the sweet spot. It’s definitely close enough if you work in the District.” Wisconsin Avenue in the District yields to Rockville Pike/Maryland Route 355 over the Montgomery County border and is the main artery to Derwood. Shady Grove Metro station on the Red line is a five-minute drive, Khizgilov said. “It’s a lifesaver. Forty minutes, and I’m downtown at work.” The MARC train stops in the vicinity of Shady Grove station.

Crime : According to the Montgomery County police crime analysis department, one robbery, two aggravated assaults, four burglaries and eight thefts from motor vehicles occurred in the past year.