Taneytown: don't be insulted

November 08, 1994

Nobody likes to hear someone say his house is ugly, but that is essentially what planning consultant Cyril Paumier Jr. told Taneytown about its village last month. So it is understandable that Mayor Henry I. Reindollar Jr.'s immediate reaction to the planner's evaluation was hostility. We hope that upon reflection, he and other town officials recognize the value of Mr. Paumier's assessment.

Taneytown was founded in 1754 and is Carroll County's oldest municipality. The town -- named after the Taney family of Calvert County -- has evolved in a haphazard fashion over the past two-and-a-half centuries. Expediency, rather than aesthetics, seems to have been the most important consideration in its development. As a result, there are few street trees, strings of utility lines festoon the two main thoroughfares and cars and trucks speed through Taneytown's center.

Mr. Reindollar was reacting to what were only preliminary findings and recommendations. Mr. Paumier, who was hired by the town with the help of a "Main Street" revitalization grant, suggested that Taneytown explore removing all the utility lines from York and Baltimore streets, installing brighter street lights, landscaping the sidewalks and widening some curbs into "pinch points" to slow traffic and to create parking buffers.

Actually, another Carroll County town -- Westminster -- has already adopted a number of these techniques. While Westminster's commercial center looks much better after these improvements, it still lacks its former vitality.

The city of Frederick has had much more success with its aesthetic improvements. Not only did it improve the look of its downtown, it also attracted new and vibrant businesses.

Improving a town's appearance should not be seen as a cure-all for the ailing retail districts in Maryland's small towns. But, as they have elsewhere, these cosmetic changes may give Taneytown a psychological lift, according to Mr. Paumier. These towns are much more pleasant places to spend time and -- with the right kind of commercial developments -- spend money.

Like a homeowner whose house needs refurbishing, Taneytown's residents have to decide which of Mr. Paumier's recommendations they want and can afford. Instead of rejecting out of hand the report's suggested improvements, Taneytown residents should consider them a starting point for an extended public discussion on how to make their town attractive again.

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