About 30 Glen Burnie residents worked for hours Tuesday night tryingto come up with a blueprint for the future.
The volunteers, who met at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association building, spent the evening brainstorming about how to fix Glen Burnie's problems and build on its strengths.
One of the most frequently voiced complaints was the community's "image problem." A stereotyped image of Glen Burnie as "Chrome City,"dominated by automobile dealerships and repair shops, is perpetuatedby people who don't live in the communityand know little about it, residents said.
People passing through Glen Burnie form their impressions based on what they see on Ritchie Highway, they said.
"People think there's all sorts of fast-food restaurants and used-car lotsand that's it," said resident Tom Dixon.
The phrase "Glen Burnout" had some residents equally resentful, and many were anxious to do something to end the stereotypes.
Others said Glen Burnie's image problem has as much to do with residents who don't take pride in theircommunity as it does with stereotypes held by outsiders.
"We don't brag enough about ourselves," said Barbara Turner, one of the organizers of Tuesday's meeting. "I see Glen Burnie as a town with a very generous heart."
Residents hope this self-evaluation will result in a plan to guide the growth and development of the greater Glen Burnie area during the next 25 years.
The process of developing a planwas prompted by the three-member public works committee of the Glen Burnie Improvement Association more than 10 months ago.
Kathy DeGrange, chairwoman of committee, said committee members had grown increasingly concerned about haphazard development, which lacked coordinated planning for roads, facilities, commercial areas and residential neighborhoods. Committee members decided to do something about the problems.
Residents attending Tuesday's meeting had many of the same concerns.
"That's why I'm here -- to stop some of this craziness,"said Lola Hand, referring to development that does not take into consideration the needs and preferences of the community.
Through a series of public meetings, the public works committee will develop "core value statements" listing goals for Glen Burnie, and a plan to achieve those goals. DeGrange said the planning process could take a year.
Residents identified flaws that must be addressed to make the goals a reality, including decaying commercial strips, deteriorating sidewalks, a proliferation of illegal signs and a lack of cultural activities.
Businesses should help more by taking down the illegal signs and sprucing up their exteriors with landscaping and other improvements, organizers said. The improvements would be good for business as well as the community, said Lisa Pitt, who led a discussion about Glen Burnie's role as North County's commercial and governmental center.
Residents took real estate agents to task, saying they did notpromote Glen Burnie enough while helping people relocate. Some suggested making a video showing Glen Burnie's strengths to help educate the real estate community.
Bruce Gallaway, a consultant working with the county's Community Design Team, said this planning process is an excellent way for a community to take charge of its future. Withouta plan, residents are forced to fight each unpopular development, increase in density, unexpected road project and unwanted commercial enterprise as it pops up.
With a clearly defined plan in place, Galloway said, it's much easier to deal with elected officials, planning and zoning authorities, developers and any others who will affect thecommunity. Residents can refer to the plan to show what they do and do not want, he said.
The next step, DeGrange said, is to put all suggestions from Tuesday night's meeting into a report and to set meeting dates for standing committees.