Anne Pearson took a look around Annapolis Neck Peninsula recently and didn't like what she saw: polluted storm water running into streams, traffic clogging city streets, vacant storefronts and poorly planned development.
So Ms. Pearson, the head of a group called the Alliance for Sustainable Communities, decided to organize a conference to bring together top planners and community leaders to look for solutions to the problems.
The Annapolis Summit will be held Friday and Saturday at the Governor Calvert House in downtown Annapolis to try to devise a plan for the area's future.
"We are convinced that we can bring all facets of our diverse community together to not only raise our level of expectations, but to assist in the implementation of a collective vision," Ms. Pearson said.
Her optimism is striking considering the contentious factions on the peninsula.
The city of Annapolis is considering suing Anne Arundel County over tax rates. Restaurant and bar owners bicker with residents over everything from trash bins to menu boards. Residents grumble that the city is becoming a tourist trap.
"You have to be partly idealistic to get into something like this," said Paul Massicot, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Tidewater Administration, who is helping to plan the summit.
The conference is expected to provide ideas as the city and county get ready to draft new land-use plans, he said.
But Annapolis has written plans before, only to have them languish mostly unfulfilled.
"We need to develop a continuing forum for these groups to see it through," Mr. Massicot said.
"I think it is the right time," Ms. Pearson said. "I think we've reached a watershed and people realize that there are problems that have to be addressed."
Ms. Pearson came to Annapolis in the 1960s to help her brother, Paul Pearson, operate his Historic Inns of Annapolis hotel chain.
But she returned to Maine with her children and lived eight years in a log cabin on an isolated peninsula.
"I felt very deeply connected with that landscape," she said.
Although two years ago she decided to return to Annapolis to be near her family, she brought with her a commitment to improving the environment.
Last year, she formed Alliance for Sustainable Communities to seek a way to live in harmony with nature and to pursue social justice.
Mr. Massicot, a member of the alliance, describes a sustainable community as one where "things don't get worse." He said growth needs to be concentrated in the cities where viable transportation systems can be developed.
The conference will begin on Friday with keynote speaker Tony Hiss, an author and staff writer for the New Yorker, who will speak about how people relate to their surroundings.
On Saturday, Robert Yaro, director for the New York-based Regional Plan Association and professor of urban planning at Columbia University, will speak about land use and growth.
Other speakers will be Mary Means, who headed a team to update the master plan for St. Mary's City, and Patrick Hare, a Washington transportation consultant.
"While the conference features nationally recognized speakers who will provide us with ideas and real examples of sound community planning, our main goal is to take those concepts and solutions and determine how to apply them," Ms. Pearson said.
The cost of the conference is $35. For more information call (410) 741-0125.