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Door To Door: Balmoral Greens, Va. and Gangplank Marina, D.C.

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Todd Timm of Balmoral Greens, where houses are more wooded than most in Fairfax County.
Todd Timm of Balmoral Greens, where houses are more wooded than most in Fairfax County.

In WAMU's weekly trip around the region, we visit Balmoral Greens, Va., and Gangplank Marina in the District.

Balmoral Greens, Va.

The name Balmoral may recall visions of the Queen's palace in the idyllic Scottish Highlands. But in the Western Fairfax County neighborhood known as Balmoral Greens, the homes — though large — are hardly palatial. The neighborhood, set among rolling hills and forests, is as restful and quiet as anything in the Scottish Highlands but is just a 40-minute drive from the Kennedy Center.

"You are close in, but you can be at your shopping centers — Fair Oaks Mall — and your movie theaters, in a matter of minutes, but you are still out in the country, out in the woods like my lot... there's a stream that runs behind my house. We have the wildlife, and you are not really encroached on by your neighbors," says 52-year-old resident Todd Timm.

Balmoral Greens is certainly woodsy. The neighborhood backs up to Fairfax County park land, and the large lot sizes allow for more trees and greenery to separate the homes.

"On average you have to have five acres per lot. Now when you do a planned development like Balmoral Greens, we have it set up so there's a significant number of lots that have the five acres, and there are a number of lots that have less than five acres, but that hover around the 1 to 1 and one-half acre mark," Timm explains.

Being out in the country so close to the woods does have its drawbacks, though. One is that residents are experiencing the phenomenon of deer overpopulation first hand.

"A lot of people in this neighborhood have found problems with the deer and the shrubbery and the rest of the landscaping. Deer ended up being a pretty big nuisance...over populated...so there are a few of us in the neighborhood that help alleviate that over- population problem," Timm says.

Gangplank Marina, Washington, D.C.

Just across the street from Arena Stage in Southwest in a neighborhood called "Gangplank Marina," lives a hearty band of Washingtonians who have embraced non-conformity and traded their brick colonials or Georgian townhomes for houses that float on the water.  

"For us it was a love of water growing up.  I grew up around inland waterways and boats...and just have always loved being around the water -- the peacefulness of it.  And I think that is true for other residents as well, the closeness to nature and water in general," says 40-year old Justin Chambers. 

Life surrounded by water may be peaceful, but the water-based neighborhood is changing. 

"The Southwest Washington, D.C. waterfront is undergoing a significant redevelopment and as a result some boaters have been temporarily displaced," says Chambers. "But one great accommodation that has been made for the live-aboard boaters is that we are able to stay in place at Gangplank for the duration of the construction and will be offered slips in the new marina, which is probably still several years down the road, but we are very excited about it."

Change in the neighborhood includes the changing seasons, and while summer is blissful on the water, winter can seem wetter and colder. 
"Wintertime to be quite frank can be a challenge...and keeping the boat warm when it gets down into the teens and single digits can be a challenge," Chambers notes.

Though Jimmy Buffet does not live at the Gangplank Marina, he would probably fit right in.  Live-aboard boaters enjoy socializing and cocktailing on their decks during warm weather, and — unusual for Washington — everyone is pretty relaxed and easy going, Chambers says.

"I think boaters somehow have a universal laid-back attitude and that is certainly the case here, even in D.C., and that's one of the things that's great about this living situation for us," he says.

[Music: "No, Girl" by John Davis from Title Tracks / "Barriers" by The London Suede from Bloodsports]

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