|About Growth, I Hold These Truths
By Bill Papian
I think I know what the majority of residents of the Deale/Shady Side Small Area believe about some of the crucial issues facing us. But, of course, my personal beliefs on those subjects would be challenged by any number of the citizens who live here, and rightly so. The proof of the pudding in this case is not in the eating, but in the printing of some of those beliefs, so here goes.
I believe that:
1. Development of a strip shopping mall - which includes a 55,000 square foot chain supermarket store on 88,000 square feet of land - at the intersection of Deale-Churchton and Bay Front roads will soon change this quasi-rural, rather rustic area into a typical city suburb.
2. Unless the Anne Arundel County Council and Administration tighten up the zoning regulations and use them to strictly control growth down here, that will happen anyway. Take a look at Edgewater, for example.
3. A large majority of the citizens of this area do not want that to happen.
If my third belief is true, then it should not happen. Which leaves us with two additional questions.
1. Is there any proof that my third belief is indeed true?
2. If it is, how can we get the county to honor both the control-the-growth statements in its recently adopted General Development Plan and the recommendations of the Small Area Planning Committee that the County set up for us?
What is there to back up my belief that area citizens do not want development of a strip shopping mall? Some of it is, of course, based on my biases, whatever they may be. But a good deal is based on several facts, as follows.
· The Small Area Planning Committee was made up of a group of people from varied walks of life who represented the five sub-areas. They were also economically, ethnically and racially diverse. The Committee Report (see for yourself at the library) contains discussions clearly advocating stricter growth control.
At the front of the Report there is, as mandated by the county, a "Vision" statement which reads in part:
Our recommendations are intended to protect and enhance the livability and diversity of our residential communities, the integrity and character of our villages and farms, and the small scale 'Hometown' nature of our local businesses. We recognize that our planning area's history and maritime economy are inextricably linked to a healthy Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The preservation and restoration of wetlands, wildlife habitat, water quality and all natural resources are of primary importance.
· Two public forums were sponsored by the county, the first to discover what sort of future the citizenry desired for our Small Area, the second to obtain reactions to and critiques of the report in its first draft form. The results verified the above vision, despite the fact that much of the second turnout consisted of families with special interests to defend.
· Early in the committee's deliberations, a survey was mailed to many households in the area. Those results also verified the desire to maintain the small-scale and quasi-rural nature of this area.
Note that those were not professionally run scientific surveys. A truly professional survey would be desirable. Unfortunately none of our civic organizations has the money for such a project, and the county doesn't seem to be interested. The amount of money needed is not that great, and the county has the Center for the Study of Public Issues at Anne Arundel Community College as well as several nearby universities, any one of which is capable of running a scientific survey. Unless such a poll is taken, we simply have to struggle along with personal assessments or guesstimates of true opinion. Too bad.
Regarding the second question, I would say that only judicious pressure on our administration and on our legislature and council stands a chance of inspiring those bodies to honor their commitments to control growth, to protect the Bay and to protect this precious peninsula. Enough pressure may even get them to challenge the Office of Law's Chicken Little fear of the sky falling, to wit, the possible accusation by a developer that any limit on the freedom to develop amounts to a constitutional "taking."
Our county executive ran on a platform aimed at protection of the environment and conservation of farmland and open space. Happily, she has recently been making good on the second of these, farmland conservation. Her heart seems to be mostly in the "uplands" and less on preserving the quasi-rural character of "lowland" or coastal communities like this peninsula. Hopefully, all that's needed is a reminder that we're here and also desperately in need of protection. Her mail address is: Janet Owens, County Executive; Anne Arundel County; Box 2700; Annapolis, MD 21404.
In the next few weeks and months, meetings and hearings on these subjects will be held. I hope citizens of all opinions will show up, not leaving the meetings to be dominated by those who have special interests at stake. Please speak out to save the Bay and our peninsula.
Occasional contributor Bill Papian was a de facto member of the Deale-Shady Side Small Area Planning Committee.