The controversial plan to turn Parole from a traffic-choked commercial suburb designed for driving into a livable town center designed for walking is slowly taking shape under the guidance of a citizens committee and county planners.
The 15-member committee, made up of area residents and business people, was to meet last night to review the county design team's latest draft. The preliminary proposal calls for a tree-lined downtown in place of Parole Plaza that mixes stores, offices and residences; new shops and roads to serve existing commercial areas; and a new, open look for Annapolis Mall.
Last August, the County Council adopted a growth-control bill forthe Annapolis suburb, after months of fiery debate over several proposals, including one that allowed 16-story buildings in the core. A developer has since frozen a proposed project that would have includeda 16-story tower.
The legislation called for an urban design concept plan from the planning staff. The county hired consultant Bruce Galloway, an urban design specialist, and created the citizen Parole Growth Management Committee.
Since then, planners and residents have begun the long-term work of turning the legislation from concept toreality. Members of the citizen group met twice before last night and have watched closely as planners drafted preliminary designs.
The council's bill divided Parole's 1,500 acres into a core, a town center and a periphery, with the heaviest development concentrated in the core.
In the latest plans, county officials envision dense development in a segment of the core bounded by Route 2 on the east, Riva Road on the west, West Street on the north and Forest Drive on the south, said Shep Tullier, the county's comprehensive planning administrator.
Several new roads would be built in a grid pattern. Buildings would be set close to the street, possibly containing shops and second-story apartments, and line up along streets dotted with trees andbenches.
In an area south of Admiral Cochrane Drive with numerousoffice buildings, a new road network built behind and around some ofthe buildings would give workers access without forcing them on to such congested main arteries as Riva Road.
Planners want to see some small-scale retail development there as well, such as dry cleaners and sandwich shops that could serve some 6,700 office workers who nowadd to heavy midday traffic congestion around Annapolis Mall.
Though the area around the mall most likely will change very little, Galloway said he would like any mall expansion to include stores that front on the exterior, giving the mall a more open look.
The currentroad system should handle new development adequately, Galloway said.He could not say how much new development the plan will call for.
Once redevelopment begins, "the quality of life and improvement in design aesthetics is going to be very dramatic," Tullier said. "Thirtyyears of development have taken place on a piece-by-piece basis withno planning of the effect on adjacent properties."
Planners are also working to give pedestrians easier access throughout Parole by linking more areas with sidewalks. Roads, meanwhile, will be landscapedand assigned building setback guidelines according to their designation as urban or suburban, Tullier said.
Planners expect to formalize the drafts with the help of the citizen committee by early September. They will schedule a public meeting at that time.