Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect base price for the condos.


The Russell Branch development will comprise 12 single-family houses on half- to full-acre lots in western Montgomery County. It’s in the middle of the county’s 93,000-acre Agricultural Reserve. (Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

The first two families to buy houses in Russell Branch Estates, an up-and-coming development in Poolesville, Md., have a lot in common: They both have three children, were attracted to the local school’s reputation, sought more breathing room inside their home and plan to rent until construction is finished.

But right now they are pretty far apart geographically.

James and Sarah Vandersea, with Jacob, 6, Jonah, 3, and Jack, 1, live on a 10-acre property just outside Poolesville. They’ll move to a smaller lot and bigger house because “such a big property takes tremendous time to take care of, and we were starting to feel cramped,” said James Vandersea.

Ingrid and Ever Ponciano, with Stephany, 23, Daniel, 13 and Emily, 8, live in Emporia, Kan. Originally from Maryland, they lived in Philadelphia for seven years and then moved to Kansas. They want to return to the East Coast and to a “community in the middle of everything,” said Ingrid Ponciano. “We’re ready to go back home.”

The Russell Branch development, which will comprise 12 single-family houses on half- to full-acre lots in western Montgomery County, is about 25 miles from the National Zoo and the Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue in Northwest Washington. The town of Poolesville is four square miles, and the population is about 5,400. It’s in the middle of the county’s 93,000-acre Agricultural Reserve.

Former horse farm: Eric R. Tovar, the president of Churchill Group and owner and builder, has been working in the region for 25 years. The 12-acre property, which includes the former owners’ home — designated “existing home on lot 2” on the site map given to prospective buyers — is a former horse farm.

The houses have spacious rooms on the main and upper levels and an unfinished downstairs equal to the upstairs footprint. A promotion is on offer until the end of March — purchasers will get a finished rec room and full bath in the lower level. Two models — Cascade and Brooke — are available now, and a third is in design.

The kitchen has an island plus room for a table and chairs. Even without an extension in the form of a double-glass-walled sunroom, the space is large. A mudroom leads downstairs and to the garage. Surrounding the main entry hall are living and dining rooms and an office.

The master bedroom is enormous, and a portion easily can be designed into a study or lounge. The adjoining bathroom suite has a separate tub and shower with built-in bench, enclosed toilet and double vanity. Along the second-floor hallway is a laundry room with a window and wall space for cabinets, a full bathroom and three smaller but good-sized bedrooms for guests or children.

The Vanderseas say they are excited about being nearer the town’s center. “We wanted to spend more time with the kids and get involved with their activities,” said Vandersea. “And we have many friends in town and wanted to be a little closer to the amenities.”

“We’re looking forward [to the new location] where we can go for a run, stretch our legs and walk the dog,” he said. “Maddox [a golden retriever] is free-range now. He visits the neighbors, and we’re far enough away from the road that we don’t have to worry about traffic. When we move, we’ll have to put up a fence.”

They’re getting ready to list their current house and hope to move by end of the year or, if lucky, before the start of the school year. They’ll rent in between.


The kitchen has 42-inch birch flat-panel cabinets, a large single sink with single-lever faucet and granite counters.  (Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

The Poncianos were focused on education when they searched for a new home. “We did a lot of research, traveled to look at houses and it came to a choice between Poolesville and Potomac, which is less affordable,” said Ponciano. “Here we’ll be in the middle of everything. Washington, Virginia, Maryland are within driving distance.” Accessibility is an attribute local residents love.

Construction hasn’t started and the house won’t be ready until end of the year. But that’s okay, Ponciano said. “We don’t want to rush the builder because this will be our forever home,” she said. “We’ve been moving for the past 12 years and are patient now. Renting will be all right.”

What’s nearby: Grocery shopping in town is limited to Dollar General, but a Harris Teeter supermarket in Darnestown is seven miles away. Lewis Orchard is a fourth-generation family farm and market in Dickerson, which is between Poolesville and Beallsville.

Poolesville Golf Course spreads across 380 acres in the Potomac Valley. The popular county swimming pool includes several pools of varying sizes, grassy areas, snack bar and bathhouse. Sugarloaf Mountain, in Dickerson, is a regional destination for day hikes plus a 38-mile bicycle loop trail.

Schools: Poolesville Elementary, John H. Poole Middle, Poolesville High.

Transit: It’s a pretty quick drive to the District via River Road or Interstate 270. The closest MARC station is in Dickerson. County ride-on bus service runs along Fisher and Wootton avenues to Shady Grove Metro station on the Red line.


The screened porch is shown.  (Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post)
Russell Branch Estates

19426 Fisher Ave., Poolesville, Md.

Twelve single-family houses are in the development. Two are sold. Ten are on the market priced from $659,900 to $952,073.

Builder: Churchill Group

Features: The houses with three levels and nine-foot-high ceilings are on half- to one-acre lots with public water and sewer. Each house has a two-car garage, vinyl siding and brick to grade front water table. The kitchen offers 42-inch birch flat-panel cabinets, a large single sink with Delta single-lever faucet and granite counters. Entry hall, powder room, kitchen and breakfast room have hardwood floors, and the upstairs is carpeted. The staircase between the first and second floors is oak. The laundry room has hookups for washer and dryer. There are smoke and carbon monoxide detectors on all levels. Smart home package includes thermostat, door lock and light switch.

Bedrooms/bathrooms: 4 to 5 / 4 to 5

Square footage: 2,959 to 3,161

View model: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday to Tuesday and by appointment Wednesday and Thursday.

Contact: Lucy Janis at 240-243-1000 ext. 115 or  www.churchillbuilders.com/russell-branch-estates .