Vol. 8, No. 28
July 13-19, 2000
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Home Truths: Where Are Our Hometowns?

Sometimes you have to get away from home to see what you’re missing. That’s what happened to us on a brief visit to Florida. Out of the sound and fury of Chesapeake Country’s debate on development, we saw Main Street communities that provoked our envy and stoked our ambition for our own hometowns.

Meanwhile, in Annapolis, the Anne Arundel County Council rejected the Big Box Bill that would have established a measure of scale for development. That disappoints us, because we’ve lost patience with Chesapeake Country’s polarized debate — you know, you’re either for it or against it — over change.

Chesapeake Country will change. Not will. Is changing. Unless we accept that fact, change is going to run us down.

The only point worth discussing is how we’re going to change. Is Chesapeake Country going to become one long strip mall sprawling from the Gov. Johnson Bridge over the Patuxent to the Delaware state line above the Susquehanna River? Are Goliaths going to drop their Big Boxes all over us?

Or are we going to manage the scope and scale of development?

One way to do that — Gov. Parris Glendening calls it Smart Growth — is to turn our town centers into real towns.

That’s a hard passage for Chesapeake Country, for, old as we are in American history, we’ve held fast to our frontier roots. From the 17th century to the 21st, every plantation has been an island.

The small town is foreign territory. We’ve got to leave home to get a feel for its target-like patterning. In the center is a dense bull’s eye, with businesses standing only a sidewalk’s width from the street and parking tucked in back. In rings around the bull’s eye, houses move in. Plantings keep it all green.

Walking down those town sidewalks, as we did in New Smyrna Beach, you can peer into store windows. It doesn’t take long before window-shopping isn’t enough. You’re lured in to the sandwich shop by the promise of Reubens and Cubans and homemade ice cream. Or that summer dress in the clothing store. Or a manicure or massage. Or sundries and suntan lotion.

You’re back early morning to breakfast at the café, and it isn’t only the sign with the steaming cup of coffee that draws you. It’s liking the feel of the neighborhood with its clean streets, swept sidewalks, washed store windows, attractive goods inside, appealing places to sit indoors and out — and real, not franchised, food inside.

You could, and we often do, get something of the same experience in Annapolis or North Beach or Galesville and parts of Severna Park and Pasadena. We may have lost it in Parole. It’s easier, of course, in communities off the main road. But there are smart solutions on the road, as well.

But main routes or by-ways, we’re not going to get where we want to be unless we read our maps. We try to show you at least one way to grow smart in every issue of Bay Weekly. This week you’ll find three: Read more in letters and our feature article.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly