The Bypass Issue Fades, And With It The Commotion

December 16, 1990|By Staff writer | Staff writer,Staff writer

MANCHESTER - A five-mile stretch of roadway that may never be built was, just a few months ago, beginning to tear this community apart.

Dozens of people wrote scathing letters to officials, hundreds crammed into public meetings and still more signed petitions calling for a change in the proposed Route 30 bypass.

It was, in the words of former Mayor Elmer C. Lippy Jr., a piece of roadway that nobody has ever wanted. And residents were beginning to prove that with a vengeance.

What a difference six months, a few canceled meetings and dried-up state resources can make.

Replacing the relative fury of complaints, public outcry and almost endless frustration is a sense of quiet and calm.

"We haven't gotten any complaints on the bypass," said Miriam DePalmer, the town's zoning administrator. "It's a long way off still."

The bypass -- and the rest of the proposed master plan of which it is a central part -- is indeed a long way off. And that, town officials and community leaders say, is one reason for the quieting of the anti-bypass storm.

Take Pam Taylor, a Schalk One Road resident who four months ago began the fledgling Citizens Against Manchester Bypass.

While still angered by the potential destruction of 17 homes and one church parking lot that could be bulldozed in favor of a bypass, she has pretty much proclaimed her group a bust.

"I don't know what happened," she said, admitting she is a bit disappointed.

After an initial mailing of 500 fliers asked for members, no one called or wrote expressing any interest.

The reason for that, she said, is that nobody perceives the bypass as much of a threat any more.

"I know that we are way down on the list (of State Highway Administration projects) and that we really don't need to worry about it right now," she said.

She said she still opposes the bypass and will attend any public meeting to protest -- that is, if another public meeting ever takes place.

The first public meeting on the proposed master plan attracted nearly 200 residents last May, most of whom were against the bypass.

The next public meeting, first scheduled for July, then August, then September, then October and finally November, has yet to take place.

And with a new Board of Commissioners in place, county and town planning officials are hard-pressed to predict when the master plan meeting will take place.

The master plan has been controversial since its very beginning in 1987.

In addition to the proposed bypass, it calls for allowing the town and its surrounding areas to grow to nearly three times the current population.

It also calls for an expanded business district, more densely populated housing developments and other features designed to make the transition of this one-time American Indian crossroads into a Baltimore suburb an easy one.

"All of this is really a long way off," DePalmer said. "And just because all of this stuff is on a map doesn't make it a reality."

Helping to make it a reality is county planner Scott Fischer, who wrote and revised the master plan.

"You really need to have a plan," he said. "It just makes sense." He said the chaos brought about by unplanned and uncontrolled growth would far outweigh the furor over the construction of a bypass.

Bypasses here and just several miles south in Hampstead have been discussed for decades, as Route 30 becomes an increasingly crowded commuter link between southern Pennsylvania and Baltimore. And the traffic is only expected to worsen in coming years.

While it is becoming easier to persuade residents of the need for a bypass, getting the state to pay for one is becoming harder.

A Manchester bypass isn't even on the State Highway Administration's 12-year plan. And in Hampstead, the bypass that was to be constructed in 1992 fell victim to Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget ax earlier this fall.

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