MontCo has region's richest communities

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Local,DC,Maryland,Virginia,Liz Farmer
Chevy Chase and the tiny Brookeville community in Montgomery County rank as the Washington region's wealthiest areas, with households earning more than $200,000 a year, according to new U.S. Census Bureau statistics.

Although the region's richest county is Loudoun, just five Virginia communities crack the 20 wealthiest in the area -- and they aren't in Loudoun. Fairfax County's Great Falls, Wolf Trap and McLean rank as Northern Virginia's wealthiest places, followed by Burke and Oakton, according to the Census' American Community Survey.

Top 20 richest communities
Median household incomeCounty
1. Southern Chevy Chase*$232,773Montgomery
2. Brookeville$207,917Montgomery
3. Town of Chevy Chase$200,966Montgomery
4. Great Falls$197,446Fairfax
5. Wolf Trap$173,411Fairfax
6. Glen Echo$173,333Montgomery
7. Darnestown$172,452Montgomery
8. Northern Chevy Chase**$167,313Montgomery
9. Potomac$157,738Montgomery
10. McLean$156,943Fairfax
11. Garrett Park$152,917Montgomery
12. North Potomac$141,689Montgomery
13. Cabin John$136,613Montgomery
14. Barnesville$130,417Montgomery
15. Bethesda$126,414Montgomery
16. Olney$120,668Montgomery
17. Burke$119,897Fairfax
18. Montclair$118,852Prince William
19. Colesville$117,142Montgomery
20. Oakton$116,888Fairfax
*Includes Chevy Chase Village, Section Five and Section Three
**Includes Chevy Chase View and North Chevy Chase
Source: American Community Survey 2005-2009

Households in the section of Chevy Chase closest to the D.C. border and the ritzy Chevy Chase Country Club claim the top spot in the region, earning a median income of $232,000, according to the data.

"Clearly you have a lot of old money in that area -- legacy money, money made from fortunes in the past and from real estate," said Morris Segall, president of SPG Trend Advisors, a consulting firm in Baltimore. "That has a lot to do with it."

Households in Brookeville, home to sprawling mansions, horse farms

and private schools, earn roughly $208,000 annually. The section of Chevy Chase near East-West Highway comes in third, earning about $201,000 per year.

Great Falls households earn more than $197,000 per year, followed by Wolf Trap, Glen Echo, Darnestown, the northern section of Chevy Chase and Potomac, which earn between $157,000 and $174,00 annually.

Segall said those communities are largely populated by high-end government employees and high-end investors and corporate executives.

Yet, according to the same statistics, which were collected between 2005 and 2009, Loudoun County households combine for the highest median income at more than $112,000 annually. Fairfax County ranks second and Montgomery -- home to many of the top 20 communities -- ranks third.

That is likely because Montgomery's household income levels vary widely. It is home to some of the lower-ranking communities like Silver Spring, Wheaton, Fairland and Takoma Park, all which earn between $67,000 and $71,000 per household annually.

It's the same reason why the District's median household income is about $60,000 but its wealthiest households -- in the Northwest quadrant between Georgetown and Friendship Heights -- earn more than $103,000 annually.

Loudoun, however, is not as densely populated as other jurisdictions and its income spread is smaller.

"Loudoun was the focus of large-scale residential development in the 1990s," said Stephen Fuller, director of George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis. "And it's a relatively small county. ... Most of [Loudoun's] housing was new and fairly expensive so it needed those higher incomes."

Households in many areas surveyed earn more than $90,000. However, data for prominent areas like Ashburn or Telegraph Spring was not available in the survey.

Pulling up in the rear are Prince George's County communities, which rank among the lowest-earning households in the region, with households in cities such as Adelphi, Hyattsville and Chillum all earning below $56,000 annually.

Although a fair number of government workers live in Prince George's, the drop-off is more significant, Segall said.

"The government-level jobs are not as high echelon," he said. "And there is more disparity when you get out of the government workers and into the private-sector jobs."

But the county does hold one surprise. Mitchellville, well-known as the home to many affluent blacks and where indicted County Executive Jack Johnson allegedly ordered his wife to flush a $100,000 check down a toilet, is not the wealthiest in the county. Residents of Accokeek, south of Fort Washington, earn roughly $115,000 per household, about $12,000 more than Mitchellville homes.

Like Brookeville, Accokeek is a historic community populated with estates on large lots.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Farmer

Examiner Staff Writer
The Washington Examiner