Vol. 8, No. 40
Oct. 5-11, 2000
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A.A. Heritage Area Is a Smart-Growth Plan

Here's a welcome piece of news for a county struggling against development to remain the kind of place people want to move to. Anne Arundel's long-contemplated Annapolis, London Town South County Heritage Area is back.

Reading hard between the lines of the latest press release to hit our desk, we recognized an old friend. For almost as long as this newspaper has been around, we've heard Heritage Area rumblings. The idea, we were told, was to unite and conquer. Here we were, with as rich a gold seam of history as any region in the nation. What wealth our history could bring if mined properly! Treated as a natural resource in its own right, history would prosper and make us prosperous. As a nice side benefit, development would have some clouty competition.

Meanwhile, each historic organization chipped away at its claim, isolated - some said suspicious - as '49ers fearing claim-jumpers. How do you get from, say, the Charles Carroll House to historic London Town to Captain Salem Avery House and Museum? The by-word, we were told, might as well have been Don't ask; don't tell.

By August of 1997, the rumblings had produced a plan: A proposal for the Annapolis and London Town Heritage Area. The work of a coalition of community, historic, business and visitor interests, it knocked on the door of the Maryland Historical Trust seeking recognition for its "potential for greater economic development and community benefit." Neatly themed "America's Roots: Sotweed, Seaports and Sailors": it wove our common heritage into a marketable package. And then we heard no more.

Until this week, when the plan surfaced as the Annapolis, London Town South County Heritage Area. This time, County Executive Janet Owens brought it to the county council as a resolution.

The plan introduced this week in the county council would establish a "management plan" to promote tourism and economic development and to create scenic preserves. If it is approved, which it should be swiftly, it would be submitted to the Maryland Heritage Authority for certification.

The $60,000 start-up costs are a tiny price for the many benefits that stand to be gained, among them state tax credits for area residents and businesses and priority status in competitions for state money. The seed money would also make the Heritage Area more visible with graphics, marketing materials and historic links.

Just as important are the intangible benefits. It could create for us a clearer sense of what our history is and how are communities are related to one another. From all those isolated prospectors, we'd have a gold rush.

Welcome back, we say. This is just the kind of initiative Chesapeake Country needs to counterbalance its abundance of roads, subdivisions and strip malls.

Nonetheless, it should not be viewed by the county executive or anyone else as an excuse for countenancing sprawl.

Owens has tripped on development projects throughout the county. Still, we disagree with the crowd claiming she's gone around the bend. The Heritage Area plan suggests she's still on the right track.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly