Planner surveys residents' needs in Union Bridge

March 24, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

While leading the latest of Union Bridge's Main Street Revitalization meetings, Carroll County Planning Liaison Brenda Dinne discovered that getting a restaurant and a barber shop in town is a big priority.

Resident John Gartrell had an explanation for both.

"We like to eat," Mr. Gartrell said, laughing during the meeting Monday night. "And, well, you've got to look good when you go out to eat."

Ms. Dinne, a county planner assigned to the town, is using information from the meetings to develop a proposal for restoring the town's main strip to a vibrant centerpiece for the community.

Among the plan's objectives:

* The area should be safe and attractive, with an emphasis on the preservation of historic characteristics and values.

* Thriving businesses should provide a blend of goods and services to residents as well as visitors.

* A combination of convenient access and promotional activities to encourage continued patronage.

* A blend of desirable housing should be available.

* A more stable economy that will result in a stronger tax base.

Monday night's meeting was the third in a series of public meetings Ms. Dinne planned so that citizens and business owners could give their opinions on several facets of the rehabilitation, such as current conditions, economic growth and aesthetic improvements.

Attendance has been sparse, but the ideas generated have given Ms. Dinne some of the information she needs to plan the town's revitalization.

"We are considering sending out surveys with the water bills to give all citizens a chance to have input," Ms. Dinne said. "But I think we'll get enough ideas from the meetings to work with."

Residents, town officials and Ms. Dinne met in December with representatives from the Maryland Main Street Center, a part of the state Department of Housing and Community Development, to discuss their ideas for a revamped Main Street.

Another meeting Feb. 3 generated ideas concerning the strengths and weaknesses of the current Main Street as well as threats to the program.

Residents felt that Main Street's strengths include the railroad and several locations for businesses to be established. Truck traffic and parking were some of the weaknesses residents identified.

"There has to be some way to make parking more available on Main Street," said Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr., who, with most of Monday night's group, believes that the best way to attract business is to increase parking downtown.

Shopping habits that take residents out of town to malls or variety stores are the main threat to the Main Street plan, participants said.

Ms. Dinne hopes to have more input when she schedules the final meeting in late April or early May.

"With as many people that there are that live in town, it would have been nice to see more people attend the meetings," Ms. Dinne said. "We need to discuss what we can do to meet the goal and objectives we've set up."

Union Bridge is applying to be one of the three "Main Street" communities designated by the state this year.

If selected, the town will receive $5,000 toward improvements, as well as signs proclaiming it a Main Street community.

State authorities will also provide technical advice on improvements.

The designation as a Main Street community also improves the town's chances of receiving other grants, Ms. Dinne said.

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