Massimo Mazziotti said the undulating landscape around the Howard County community of Highland reminds him of his native Italy.

“The trees and the green grass just kind of feel good to look at,” said Mazziotti, who was born and raised in the rugged mountainous region of Abruzzo, along the Adriatic Sea. “And there’s a small lake behind my house that belongs to my neighbor,” he added.

With 3,000 residents and 1,000 homes, Highland, wedged between Olney and Columbia, has a small business on nearly every corner.

One of the iconic, feel-good enterprises is Boarman’s, a market at the semi-rural intersection of Route 108 and Highland Road. George Boarman, whose father, Larry, 92, started the grocery store in the 1950s, painted a mental picture of Highland during the 1960s and ’70s when he was growing up there.

“You know those little rubber-band planes?” he asked, his gaze fixed on the one stoplight where afternoon rush-hour traffic gathered. “You could wind it up and it wouldn’t hit any cars,” said George Boarman, who helms a family business that forged a storied reputation for its unique way with fresh sausage, country and Italian. “I ice-skated on these streets and rode my pony to the store.”

The lack of traffic is hardly the case now. Despite the rapid growth, there’s still a small-town feel to the place, reported Terri Westerlund, an agent with Le Reve Real Estate. “Everybody knows everybody. You can go into virtually any small business and encounter a handful of folks you know. “And when the Boarmans see you around, they give you a hug and a kiss.”

Wide variety of houses:
The majority of dwellings in Highland are custom-designed, said Christine Martin, another Le Reve agent. “These estate homes are very popular. We’ve got a lot of wealth moving into Highland.” Martin said she recently listed and sold — in one day — a 3,500-square-foot house on six acres. Price tag: $1.3 million. Sixty-six properties in the town are on 10 acres or more. “And we do still have a 52-acre farm called Hyde Away. It’s just an awesome property. You wouldn’t even know it was there.”

Showcase properties notwithstanding, the community features an ample supply of more conventional styles, including bungalows, Cape Cods, ranchers and split-levels. “There’s an old Victorian built in the 1800s that’s been refurbished,” Martin said. “It’s a very eclectic neighborhood.”

Many of the lower-priced homes are nestled on the west side of Highland Road, which meets Brighton Dam Road. From there, it’s about a mile to Brighton Dam and Triadelphia Reservoir, which holds 7 billion gallons of drinking water for customers in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Businesses and family farms:
Along with Boarman’s, Highland’s businesses include a dog groomery, a plumber, a feed and seed concern, and a shop focused on integrative wellness. A modern office-condominium complex has a Subway sandwich shop, the Twist and Turn tavern, and a liquor store.

At its core, Highland remains a showcase of family farms, according to the Web site of the Greater Highland Crossroads Association. The community traces its roots to the 1700s, when John Dorsey surveyed for a piece of land to leave to his children.

One large farm, Paternal Gift, was purchased by the Scheidt family after World War II, according to the Web site, and the Scheidts raised dairy cows, sheep, horses, corn and hay. When the parents died, their children divided the land. Farm-preservation money dried up in the next half-
century, but the children managed to preserve the green fields and forests.

Paternal Gift Farm lives on as an upscale community of about 30 houses on lots of about an acre each. The homeowners jointly own a 40-acre horse-boarding facility.

“People come out here and buy these huge houses and have a problem with the farmer,” said Penny Schmit, 56, who owns Serendipity, a high-end boutique operating out of a building that went up in 1888 and was first used as a harness shop. “I don’t, because the farmers were here first.”

Every October, the business-and-
homeowners association celebrates the community’s farm heritage with Highland Day. The festival features hayrides, dozens of artists and artisans, and food and drink, including a beer garden.

Living there:
Highland is bordered by Highland Road and Brighton Dam Road to the north; Route 108 and MacBeth Farm Lane to the east; Route 216, Scaggsville Road and Browns Bridge Road to the south; and Route 108 and Hall Shop Road to the west.

In the past year, 29 homes sold in Highland, at prices ranging from $450,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom rancher on one acre to $1.75 million for a five-bedroom, two-bath property on 30 acres built in 1850, Martin said. Thirty-one properties are listed for sale, from for a four-bedroom Colonial for $449,000 to a seven-bedroom custom Colonial for $2.75 million. Seven homes are under contract, she said, with listing prices from $271,600 for a short sale to $865,000 for a Colonial.

Fulton Elementary, Clarksville and Lime Kiln middle, and River Hill and Reservoir high.

The Maryland Transit Administration runs commuter buses from Columbia to Washington and Baltimore. MARC has rail stations in Laurel and Savage. Metrobus serves nearby Ashton and Colesville.

Tony Glaros is a freelance writer.