For years, retired couples have gravitated to Swan Point, a waterfront community of custom homes at the southern tip of Charles County, nearly a half-hour from the closest supermarket and light-years from the busy pace of the Washington area.
Leisure opportunities are plentiful: a challenging golf course that meanders through marshland, skirting the 350-home development; fishing, boating and kayaking; a pool and tennis courts; and tree-lined streets ideal for cycling and strolling.
But now, you’re likely to see children playing along the many cul-de-sacs. Although Swan Point can be a long way from soccer practice and karate lessons, families are finding that the neighborhood’s amenities have plenty of appeal for youngsters.
Holly and Jason Evans were living in a Waldorf townhouse and discovered Swan Point one Fourth of July. They said they were charmed by the patriotic bicycle parade put on by the community’s youngsters, and the woodsy feel of the neighborhood was evident when one of the many deer walked out in front of the car. The community seemed like a good place to raise a family, and the Evanses, who moved in 2003 when Holly was pregnant, now have three youngsters, ages 8, 6 and 2, at their Swan Point home.
For a parent, Swan Point “is very, very remote,” Holly Evans said, but that has some advantages: Her children can roam outdoors and play in the woods, while other families help monitor everyone. Evans says she knows all of her neighbors, and there are 11 elementary-age children on her street. Because many youth activities are far away, the Evans children are limited to one activity per season.
Evans, 40, a former flight attendant, is a board member of the Swan Point Property Owners Association and is active in the PTA of her children’s elementary school. Jason Evans is a salesman for Benelli USA and commutes to Accokeek when he is not traveling. They considered Arlington and Alexandria, but “we got a whole lot more house moving out here,” Holly Evans said.
Along with families and retirees, Swan Point attracts a person “who wants to be a little far from the rush, and who can be a little far from the rush,” said resident Connie Saltarelli, an agent with Long & Foster.
The land for the development, about 900 acres bounded by the Potomac River and Cuckold Creek, was purchased in 1969, but approval battles, mainly over water and sewer systems, delayed construction. The first houses were built in the 1980s.
The property owners association, made up of residents and representatives of the developers, oversees the covenants that govern the community. Standards are strict; for example, paint color requires approval. Only special siding is permitted; no vinyl or aluminum is allowed, Saltarelli said.
Housing prices vary, depending on whether a house is on an interior street or on the water. Saltarelli said interior homes can cost less than $300,000; on the water, homes can run between $560,000 and $1.1 million. Prices initially plummeted 15 or 20 percent when the recession hit, but now are only about 10 percent below pre-recession levels, she said. Some homeowners “who weren’t able to get the prices they wanted are waiting for the market to turn around,” Saltarelli said.
In addition, the Swan Point development is far from complete. About 1,500 residences, as well as a conference hotel and marina, have been proposed by partners U.S. Steel and Brookfield Homes. If approvals proceed and the market is favorable, the development company hopes to begin construction of the Villages at Swan Point in 18 months, said Dave Carro, Brookfield’s development director. The long-term plans have been in place for years; the developers built a wastewater treatment plant in anticipation of the larger community.
Swan Point is unique in that a waterfront development of its size in a “critical” environmental area would not likely be possible under current standards, said Peter Aluotto, the director of Charles County’s Department of Planning and Growth Management. Public hearings, part of the approval process, are continuing. The developers have taken steps to retain open space and to preserve shoreline with a combination of breakwaters and plantings.
Norm Chlosta, president of the property owners association, is supportive. “I’m positive about what they are planning to do,” said Chlosta, 71, who moved to Swan Point from Waldorf in 2000. Because of the foundering economy, “it’s going to take longer than they had envisioned,” he said.
Some residents, however, are wary of the plans, which would triple the size of the community. “There’s concern about property values of the older homes compared with the property values of the newer, nicer homes . . . And most people like things the way they are,” Holly Evans said.
Residents have grown to enjoy the close-knit community and see the semirural location as an advantage. Bonnie Douglas, who moved to Swan Point nine years ago from Clinton, said she remembers how nicely she and her husband, John, were treated when they attended a community dinner and a dance. “People came up to us and said, ‘Come sit with us, don’t sit by yourself,’ ” Douglas said. “We felt like a member of the community before our house was even built.”
Douglas, 65, got involved with the garden club and now is president of the citizens association, which coordinates social programs, including the welcome wagon and water aerobics at the pool. The golf and country club, which includes a restaurant, serves as a gathering spot and features programs like music on the terrace on summertime Fridays.
Rich and Barbara Jenkins also plunged into the social scene. Rich serves as commodore of Swan Point’s yacht club, although he admits with a laugh: “There are no real yachts. We have boats.” Jenkins said the club sponsors safety events and kayaking lessons at the pool. The club also holds “raft-ups,” in which boats tie up together for a day on the water.
The Jenkinses’ home on the Potomac River “is a 401(k) plan come true,” said Rich Jenkins, 69. He and Barbara, 66, government workers from Springfield, had planned to spend their retirement years on the water. “This was our dream,” said Rich Jenkins, who also enjoys Swan Point’s golf course, touted as one of the best in the region.
Still, residents say the distance from larger stores and even gas stations requires planning. “When we first moved here, I sorta felt like, ‘I’m really out here,’ ” Bonnie Douglas said. “But it’s definitely worth the distance. It’s a good lifestyle.”
Jim Brocker is a freelance writer.
ZIP CODE: 20645
BOUNDARIES: Swan Point, located in southern Charles County, is bounded by the Potomac River on the west and south; Cuckold Creek on the north; and the communities of Woodland Point, Potomac View and Issue near Route 257 on the east.
SCHOOLS: Public schools serving the community include Dr. Thomas L. Higdon Elementary School, Piccowaxen Middle School and La Plata High School.
SALES: In the past 12 months, nine houses have been sold in Swan Point at prices ranging from $274,900 to $595,000, according to Connie Saltarelli of Long & Foster. There are 18 houses currently on the market, at prices ranging from $205,200 to $995,000. There are four houses under contract, at prices ranging from $250,000 to $495,000.
TRANSIT: The closest transit to Washington is MTA Commuter Bus service from La Plata, about a half-hour from Swan Point. Charles County VanGo serves the U.S. 301 corridor, a 15-minute drive from Swan Point.
WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE: The community pool, marina, playground, and Swan Point Yacht and Country Club with tennis courts, golf course and restaurant.
WITHIN 10 MINUTES BY CAR: Restaurants in nearby Cobb Island.