Building Neighborhoods, Not Developments

New Concept Is An Old-fashioned Idea

April 19, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Would it be sentimental to wish for a neighborhood where your children could ride bicycles to lacrosse practice and Grandma could walk toa corner grocery store, leaving time for you to garden instead of car pool?

For most people, it probably is wishful thinking now.

But if builders take to the idea of "traditional neighborhood development," you may be able to go back to the old neighborhood.

"Itwould be a shame if it didn't catch on," said Mike Maholchic, past president of the Carroll County Chapter of the Home Builders Association of Maryland.

Growing up in the Halethorpe/Arbutus area of Baltimore County, Maholchic said he remembers walking to stores located onthe first floor of well-maintained homes.

"I guess I'm kind of a sentimentalist," he said.

Developers and government planners don'trealize what a "sterile environment" they've created with "cookie-cutter" houses until they look at traditional neighborhoods, Maholchic said.

Thursday, a Washington architect who advocates traditional neighborhoods over suburban sprawl spoke to 28 people at the county home builders' monthly meeting at Westminster Inn.

"If you want to preserve towns and farmland in Carroll County, this is the way to do it," said Neil I. Payton, who also teaches at Catholic University of America in Washington. "And you can make a lot of money on this."

Commercial areas don't have to be separated from residential areas as current zoning dictates, he said. Giving each land use its own space forces people to drive everywhere, meaning streets must be wider and parking lots bigger.

In a traditional neighborhood, shops, homes, work places, churches and civic buildings are within a five-minute walk, Payton said. People don't have to give up their cars; it just means they make fewer trips, he said.

"You've never been anywhere youever liked where parking is easy," he said.

A traditional neighborhood has a grid of streets that allows alternate routes to destinations, which means streets can be smaller and have trees, sidewalks andparking, Payton said.

He showed slides of traditional neighborhoods in Annapolis; Georgetown; Charleston, S.C.; and Louisville, Ky.

It's not accidental that land values in such areas are high, he said.

"People like that stuff," he said.

Payton even had a slide ofMount Airy, where a plumbing company has gas pumps right on the street.

"It's fabulous," he said.

Jim Piet of Masonry Contractors Inc. in Manchester said he also liked the idea of building traditionalneighborhoods, but added that zoning laws would have to be changed to do it.

"It's a long road, but it could be done," he said.

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