A group brainstorming over what Odenton should look like in 20 yearscame up with a hodgepodge of ideas Wednesday night, ranging from a transportation hub to a quiet retirement village.
For two hours, county planners took notes as residents and developers dreamed out loudof a new vision for the West County community.
That vision will guide a committee of residents, builders and county planners drafting rules for developers who want to build in the 218-acre town center and its periphery.
The committee will not comeup with a specific design but will create a concept for how the towncenter will look and regulations to enforce the vision.
The idea Wednesday was for the 70 people to say what should be preserved in Odenton and then try to create a community around that idea. For example, if Fort Meade is an important part of the community, what does that mean in terms of designing roads, bringing in social programs and the Boomtown strip along Route 175?
"That's the kind of thing I'm getting at," said Bruce Galloway, a consultant hired by the county to lead the process.
But an intriguing conflict kept coming up at themeeting: Should Odenton be a small community where every house has abig backyard, envied schools and just enough services so people don't have to leave when they need to see a movie or attend a play; or should Odenton become a draw for other communities by building culturalcenters, big malls and restaurants?
At the center of this problemis the Odenton MARC train station, which pulls the community in two different ways. On one hand, residents have the advantage of reachingBaltimore and Washington with relative ease. On the other hand, it can bring people to Odenton.
"We have to reconcile these two things," Galloway said. "We have a tremendous conflict between this value of open and rural and the value of a vibrant community center."
Galloway said Odenton has a lot of walls: Fort Meade and Boomtown are separated from non-military residents; the new developments are set apart from the older, established community; and the major roads, routes170 and 175, act as dividers.
"Those walls have to be broken downor we will have five communities instead of one," Galloway said. "Maybe that value is desired. I don't know."
But residents did have ideas. They said they want an interconnecting series of sidewalks so people can walk from one place to another. They want Route 175 to havea median strip with trees. Some wanted more single-family homes thantown houses. Others wanted an ideal retirement community.
Some residents even questioned the location of town center, the 218 acres slated for intense development at the intersection of routes 32 and 175. They said they wanted it left as open space and said the town center should be built around the current shopping center.
Others seemed not to realize that the committee must decide how Odenton will grow-- not whether or not it will grow. Developers already own town center land and the population could double or triple in the next 10 years.
"Odenton will change dramatically," Galloway said. "We have to decide what direction and how it will change."
The committee will meet again next month to present a list of four or five specific items that will form the community vision and keep members busy for the next six months.
"We will do our best to include what you all have said," Galloway assured the group. "Rest assured, you will get more stabs at us to make sure we're doing it right."