Back-to-the-Future in Union Bridge

August 09, 1994

If the developer of the 171-acre Phillips property outside Union Bridge sticks to his new plans, G. Jackson Phillips may set a welcome precedent in Carroll County. Instead of going ahead with plans for the standard cookie-cutter subdivision of 400 homes, he has retained a land planning company that wants the new development to reflect the small-town feel of Union Bridge.

The results of less thoughtful approaches to residential subdivisions litter the Carroll landscape. Interchangeable subdivision plans imposed on the landscape without any consideration of the land's natural contours and features or acknowledgment of existing buildings or communities are all too common. These developments often seem to pay more attention to the needs of automobiles -- wide streets, big driveways and parking lots where the cars get the best views. Without the human-scale amenities necessary to create a sense of community, it is not surprising that the adjective "sterile" is used to describe these developments.

David Thaler, the principal of the land planning firm Dr. Phillips retained, told the Union Bridge Planning Commission his intention is to design a development that reflects the town's best features. That means creating street patterns that intersect rather than wander endlessly; installing sidewalks and benches where people can walk, sit and mingle; mixing sizes of houses to create a visually interesting townscape, and installing front porches so people can see their neighbors and interact with them. Mr. Thaler said his goal is to preserve -- rather than destroy -- Union Bridge's small-town, Victorian feel.

This approach to development is not revolutionary.

Orienting housing to people rather than automobiles has been used successfully in developments around the nation. The most notable nearby example is the highly acclaimed development of Kentlands in Montgomery County. The creative mix of townhouses, single-family dwellings and apartments replicates the feel of a "real" town.

We hope Dr. Phillips follows through with his initial plans. With VTC time, which he seems to be willing to devote, and thought, this project could be a welcome addition to Carroll County and set an example for other developers to replicate. We will follow its progress with interest.

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