Sunday, May 01, 2005

Subdivisions Impose Social Divide

STEPHANIE MCCRUMMEN, WASHINGTON POST - Lately, Ivan Barry, who is 12, feels like a stranger in a strange land, which is odd, since he and his family moved to their red brick rambler on Ryan Road in Loudoun County seven years ago, before most of their neighbors arrived. They were part of a rural community then, their street mostly fields and woods where Ivan could romp with abandon, discovering creeks and paths to such hidden spots as an old mill, where he'd go sometimes to think, hunt for red-tailed skinks or just pretend that he was lost in the wilderness. Then, things changed.

It was not simply that thousands of houses came; it was how they came -- in such self-contained communities as Brambleton and Forest Manor, Forest Run and Belle Terra, all with their backs turned to the rambler. And Ivan, once the insider in a sense, became an outsider -- a resident of nowhere.

"At school, they're like, 'What development do you live in?' " Ivan said recently. "And I'm like, 'I don't live in a development!' And they're like, 'Do you live in the woods?' And I'm like, 'I've been living here for seven years!' And they're like, 'This didn't exist seven years ago!' " he said, throwing his hands in the air. . .

According to the Community Associations Institute in Alexandria, four out of five U.S. homes built since 2000 have been in homeowner association-governed subdivisions, where residents pay dues to support such amenities as clubhouses and pools that usually exclude those outside.

While life inside such places as Brambleton often is vibrant with block parties, poker nights, book clubs and a sense of identity, life on the outside feels quite different these days, altered in ways large and small.

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