'Shared vision' called for to save bay

September 25, 1994|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Sun Staff Writer

Saving Chesapeake Bay will require greater community cooperation to preserve the bay region's rapidly vanishing rural landscape, a group of international planning experts said yesterday.

Speaking at the Maritime Institute in Fells Point, visiting teams of planners from abroad and elsewhere in this country urged environmentalists, developers and farmers in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia to find common ground on ways to accommodate growth and development without destroying the bay region's remaining forests, wetlands and wide open spaces.

Without a "shared vision" of their community's future, residents of Maryland's rapidly developing Kent and Queen Anne's counties will lose much of the natural beauty, sense of history and rural lifestyle that they hold dear, warned Linda Harper, a planner for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Harper was part of an eight-member team of planners who spent last week touring the farms, seafood businesses and housing developments of the two upper shore counties that border the Chester River.

Their visit was part of an unusual international exchange that brought outside planners in to review development trends in rural communities in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Similar teams visited Cumberland County in Pennsylvania and Virginia's Eastern Shore.

The exchange represents a new attempt to mobilize public concern about suburban sprawl and the damage that poorly planned development can do to the bay, its sponsors say.

"If we pursue the status quo, we're going to lose [the bay]," said William Matuszeski, head of the Environmental Protection Agency's bay program office in Annapolis. The exchange was sponsored by the EPA; the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, a citizen's group; and the Countryside Institute, which has arranged similar exchanges in other regions.

The team that visited Maryland's upper shore counties recommended that residents and business and political leaders work together to curb sprawling development that has provoked community conflicts. It also urged county officials to stop trying to attract high-technology manufacturing and do more to sustain the upper shore's traditional farming and fishing industries.

Bitter feelings linger in Kent County over a controversial proposal to build a Wal-Mart store outside Chestertown, which was approved last year but is now being appealed in court. Opponents fear the huge discount store's impact on traffic and small town-based businesses.

"We brought a lot of people who were at each other's throats together," said Ms. Harper, "and it's a start."

vTC "There's a real need to change the [attitude] in this part of the bay that land is seen only as a marketable commodity," Ms. Harper said. She and other team members urged residents and officials to balance respect for individual property rights with a recognition that the community must treat land as a finite resource and conserve it for future generations.

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