When Kristin and Steve Schadt set out to buy their first home in 1987, they had to find their lot out in the woods.
They were the second couple to commit to buy a house in Adams Farm.``It was very deserted,' said Kristin Schadt. ``It was almost like living out in the country, with a lot of construction going on.... We had dirt roads. We tracked a lot of mud into the house.'
Twelve years later, the Schadts are in a bigger house, but still in Adams Farm. And after 12 years, Adams Farm has grown too.
Once just 710 acres of trees and fields where the weekly fox hunt ran, Adams Farm now has almost 1,600 houses and 900 apartments. Just 27 lots remain before it is completely built out. The last houses should be sold by the end of the year, said Chip Conner, Adams Farm's project manager.
In 1986, when Planned Communities Development Corp. (now East-West Partners) came in to show local leaders how they would transform that farmland, some local officials were skeptical. The plans looked good and the company had done some attractive projects elsewhere, but it had no track record in Greensboro.
``There was a lot of concern on the council's part,' said John Forbis, Greensboro mayor at the time. ``We needed to be more proactive in that area and not allow a lot of that area to fall under the county's or another city's jurisdiction.'
Planned Communities wanted to build a ``planned-unit development,' a style of building subdivisions that had been around for about 10 years.
In a PUD, subdivision lot size restrictions as they had existed since the 1950s were relaxed so that houses could be concentrated in certain areas, leaving others covered in trees, streams or lakes. Streets meander through the subdivision, allowing houses to be oriented in different ways. Neighborhoods were to be built by different developers operating under style limits, so different neighborhoods would have distinct looks, but overall styles would remain consistent.
The Adams Farm developers wanted to sell not just houses but a lifestyle. They planned a swim and tennis club at the center, next to a 17-acre fishing lake. Asphalt walkways followed the main roads and wandered off between neighborhoods, giving residents places to walk their dogs and children and ride bicycles.
Adams Farm made up the bulk of Greensboro's largest voluntary annexation of 1,044 acres. It occurred soon after High Point, Greensboro and Jamestown reached agreements over which jurisdiction would provide services to which area.
Forbis said the council was concerned that there would be enough green space, that houses wouldn't be too crowded, and that a maze of streets wouldn't hamper fire trucks and police cars from reaching their destinations. Those concerns allayed, council approved the project. And the developer was going to put in all the infrastructure himself, rather than relying on the city to do it.
``It was a good way to do it, a planned community like that,' Forbis said. ``Usually it's like World War II: You take it street by street.'
But not everyone was convinced.
Michael Moran lived on Hilltop Road at the time and sent one of his children to a crowded Millis Road Elementary School. He was convinced Adams Farm children would burden the county schools and Adams Farm cars would fill up the area's roads.
``There should have been a little more proactive planning,' he said. The city and county governments should have planned to build Pilot Elementary School earlier to accommodate all the children who would have to attend it. They should have widened Hilltop Road and added the turn lanes before the traffic hit, not now after people have had to sit waiting to make left turns.
``There's been so much growth in that quadrant of the city,' Moran said. ``I'm still concerned about it.'
Fed up with the Hilltop Road traffic, he left his Hilltop Road house in 1997 and moved to Sedgefield.
One more thing concerns him. A New Jersey native, Moran has seen how huge developments like Levittown start out nice but turn seedy. He worries that if the Adams Farm Community Association ever loses its vigilance, residents' loyalty to the architectural covenants and willingness to pay for maintenance could decline.
Still, he likes Adams Farm and approves of the way the developers built it. He agrees with Forbis that one 2,500-unit subdivision is better than piecemeal development.
The Schadts like it too. When Kristin and Steve Schadt and their infant daughter moved into their house in 1987, there was one other family on their Copper Hill cul-de-sac.
They were joined by other young couples over the summer and became close to their new neighbors. They socialized frequently and even played tricks on one another.
``Any time you went on vacation, you knew your yard would be decorated with pink flamingos when you got back,' Kristin Schadt said.
Adams Farm Parkway, now a two-lane road with a median, was dirt. They picked up their mail and dumped their trash at the sales office. Beyond their back yards were woods.
Two years ago, with three children, they outgrew their Copper Hill house and shopped around for a new one.
They looked around at other areas that would be convenient to Steve Schadt's job in High Point and Kristin Schadt's in Jamestown. But they decided they wanted to stay in Adams Farm, so their kids could continue to go to Pilot, so they could walk on the paths and swim at the pool. They like having their neighborhood within a larger neighborhood. They like the nearby shopping centers.
They bought a ``move-up' house in the Old Fox Trail subdivision.
Back in the beginning, the Schadts always knew that houses would supplant many of the trees behind their house. Still, it was hard to envision the small city that's there now.
``When we started out to pick our lot with the builder, we literally hiked into the woods to pick our lot,' she said. ``I wouldn't say anyone's hiking into woods now to pick out a lot.'