- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Maryland’s Queen Anne’s County occupies 373 square miles of farmland and quiet neighborhoods on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, Eastern Bay and the Chester River.

Centreville is Queen Anne’s County seat, some 34 miles from Baltimore and 48 miles from the District.

Queen Anne’s is included in the Baltimore-Washington Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area. It is one of the fastest-growing jurisdictions in Maryland and a major transportation nexus for the Delmarva Peninsula.

On April 18, Queen Anne’s County, observed the 300th anniversary of its founding. The county is continuing with its yearlong, countywide celebration.

To get to Centreville, travelers from the Washington or Baltimore areas cross the Bay Bridge into Queen Anne’s County, travel over Kent Island and cross the Kent Narrows Bridge, and then head north on U.S. 301 to its intersection with Maryland 213. The town limits are just north of the exit ramp off Route 301.

Centreville is 2.1 square miles of small-town America, complete with 18th- and 19th-century homes, quaint antique shops, a Federal-style courthouse and one fine dining restaurant.

The median price for a home in Centreville is $195,814, according to the National Association of Realtors, which reports the median price home in Queen Anne’s County to be $228,632.

Buyers have a wide variety of housing styles and prices in and around Centreville. There are elegant Victorian homes with wraparound porches, late 19th-century row houses, early 20th-century classic masonry homes and plenty of new single-family home and town-house construction.

“The heaviest concentration of residential growth in Queen Anne’s County in most recent years has occurred on Kent Island, Grasonville and Queenstown,” says Suzi Eakle, economic development manager for Queen Anne’s County.

But growth has not come without struggle. In May 2004, the Maryland Department of the Environment imposed a moratorium on Centreville to restrict it from issuing new building permits until a new wastewater treatment system was operational. The new system would be able to handle 500,000 gallons a day, enough for current and future growth.

In November 2004, Centreville opened its new wastewater treatment system, and by February 2005, Environmental Secretary Kendl P. Philbrick announced that the ban was lifted.

Since then, residential and commercial construction has boomed in Centreville, Stevensville, Chester, Grasonville and Queenstown.

Centreville’s Department of Residential Development issued 364 residential building permits from February 2005 through mid-March 2006 — almost one per day in a little more than a year.

Construction of Centreville Business Park, a 125-acre commercial and industrial development on the south side of town, will provide office use and a wellness facility. Also located on the south side of town is a Food Lion grocery store, along with hardware and discount drug stores. Centreville Plaza, on the northeast side of Centreville, consists of an Acme food store and some other retail shops.

The Queen Anne County Historical Society reports that Centreville was created in 1782 to fulfill an act of the state assembly that authorized the removal of the courthouse and government functions of Queen Anne County from Queenstown to a more central location.

Construction on the Federal-style courthouse began in 1791. In 1794, Centreville was incorporated. Today, the courthouse is the oldest courthouse in continuous use in Maryland, the historical society says.

Growth remained slow in Centreville until 2000. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that population increased throughout Queen Anne’s County by 11.13 percent between 2000 and 2005.

Centreville Town Manager Royden Powell sees Centreville remaining essentially the same, “a small town with a rural flavor.”

The town remains respectful of its past through historic preservation of its original 18th- and 19th-century buildings. The 19th-century buildings made extensive use of heavy cornice work and bay windows. These features were very popular on buildings during the Victorian period.

Centreville remains the governmental and legal center of the surrounding agricultural community.

Centreville is served by two colleges: Chesapeake College, which was founded as Maryland’s first regional community college in 1965, and Washington College in the neighboring Kent County town of Chestertown, founded in 1782, listed as the 10th oldest college in the nation and the first founded after independence from Britain.

Centreville residents enjoy a 6-acre, beachfront park with a pavilion, picnic areas and grills. An equestrian trail is slated to open this May in Conquest Preserve. There are four state parks within 20 miles of Centreville: Hart-Miller Island, Sandy Point, Tuckahoe and Wye Oak.

People don’t move to Centreville for jobs, though.

“Approximately 60 percent of our work force commutes to jobs outside the county each day,” Ms. Eakle says. “We are especially targeting medical, technical, knowledge-based and maritime-related industries that will bring high-paying jobs to the county; jobs that will allow our residents to work closer to home.”

The Queen Anne’s County Department of Economic Development has a top priority of business attraction and retention.

The department helps identify zoned sites for development, to promote farming, reduce government barriers, provide interface for tax incentives and regulatory issues, and it is building a Matapeake Maritime Center to attract marine-related business.

“Queen Anne’s County is an excellent place to do business in, a location that is very unique, special and business-friendly,” says Paul Comfort, county administrator. “You can be assured the ‘Welcome to Queen Anne’s County’ sign is out for business opportunities.”

Busy Route 213 runs through town, but Centreville exudes a relaxed lifestyle. Residents are equidistant to city amenities and beaches but far enough away from them to enjoy quiet, small-town living.

However, traffic is an ongoing issue for Centreville residents, especially summer beach traffic, leading many to pine for a second Bay Bridge to relieve the U.S. 50-301 corridor. Where to place such a bridge and how to fund it, however, are still subject to much debate.

History buffs will find plenty to explore in Queen Anne’s historic sites — Colonial homes, churches, restored train stations and Victorian mansions.

During spring, summer and fall, residents can enjoy picking their own produce at nine local growers. Many simply visit the Centreville Farmers Market every Wednesday and Saturday, starting in May.

This story was previously published March 24, 2006.

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