EAST MANATEE -- GreyHawk Landing is a sprawling community with nearly 1,000 homes and more than 10 miles of paved roads, yet it maintains a quiet, small-town charm. Homes are grouped in clusters off of Greyhawk Boulevard, the neighborhood's main artery, which is lined with shade trees, lush landscaping and the occasional bench. Residents gather in the common areas -- the pools, the playgrounds -- to socialize their kids after school. There's enough wildlife -- deers, alligators, snakes, you name it -- to feel like this place is nestled in some faraway countryside.
"It's such a rural feeling. Especially in the mornings. You drive down and you see a deer with two babies," said Lorna Smith, a resident who moved to the neighborhood two years ago from Houston.
Ollie Kyte, chairman of the neighborhood's Community Development District (CDD), came from Los
Angeles to escape city life -- and smog.
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"Where I lived in Los Angeles, I would go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning to the sound of gunshots. Here, I wake up in the morning to the sound of cows," he said.
Residents of GreyHawk Landing, which is nestled on 650 acres between State Road 64 and Upper Manatee River Road, settled in the neighborhood for the quiet, to escape traffic and all of life's hustle and bustle.
But as communities rapidly sprout along SR 64, some residents fear GreyHawk Landing could lose a little of its appeal.
"That's going to be greeted with mixed emotions, when we lose, and we will, all of the farm land around here," said Peter Lofquist, president of the homeowner's association.
The community's original section, comprised of roughly 800 homes, was built during the housing boom in 2001 by developer Sam Rogers. Now, as the market gains momentum, Rogers is adding GreyHawk West, another 500 homes on 300 acres all built by Sam Rogers Homes, Homes by Towne and Ryland Homes.
Lofquist said the homeowner's association takes the appearance of the neighborhood seriously. After all, there are plenty of nearby places for prospective residents to choose to live.
"In old GreyHawk, we're competing with GreyHawk West. We're competing with communities they're building near Waterlefe and up on Rye Road, so it's critical that as a deed restricted community we make sure that everyone keeps their property values up," Lofquist said. "It's a constant battle in a sense that we're 13 years old, so you want to make it appealing for people who live here and also make it attractive for potential buyers."
The number of foreclosed homes has dropped dramatically from close to 80 in 2009 to about 16 homes now, Kyte said. That's good news for the HOA, which is in charge of making sure those properties look as presentable as possible.
The slew of amenities at GreyHawk Landing make it unique from other neighborhoods. There's two clubhouses with large swimming pools, a fully-loaded gym, playgrounds, baseball and soccer fields, a basketball court and a two-mile nature trail.
Smith, chair of the neighborhood's events committee, loves seeing families and kids using the pools and playgrounds.
"It's nice to hear them and see them playing," she said.
Smith and her husband thought about moving to The Villages, a master-planned community for seniors in Sumter County, but wanted to live around a mix of people. In GreyHawk Landing, there's young couples, retirees and families with kids, she says.
Smith is in charge of executing neighborhood events. She has 12 planned for the rest of the year, including a kids fishing tournament and barbecue, an end of school pool party and a mix and mingle for the adults. Smith keeps the neighborhood informed in a 30-page newsletter she puts together each month.
"There's an activity for every age of individual resident that lives here," Kyte said. "To me, if the residents here don't take advantage of it, shame on them. Because it's there."
Angie Kaliher moved to GreyHawk Landing from Lakewood Ranch with her husband and two kids for the close community feel and all of the activities.
"We had a couple of friends that lived in here, and we really liked the way the community was very tight knit and looking out for one another," she said.
Kaliher takes her kids, ages 9 and 7, fishing in the ponds or on bike rides through the nature trails -- two of their favorite activities.
"When you ride through, you see all different types of animals and wildlife," she said. "The kids always feel like we're riding through the jungle."
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.