Hampstead residents get their first look at plan for revitalization Ideas are proposed for land use, traffic

October 29, 1998|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

About 60 people gathered at Hampstead's Volunteer Fire Hall last night for a town meeting and presentation of a plan to revitalize Main Street.

Refreshments and door prizes were added to sweeten the attraction to an open house for the preliminary draft of the Main Street Revitalization Plan.

Residents were invited to help:

Create a vibrant downtown.

Strengthen downtown's economic climate.

Enhance its visual appearance.

Improve vehicular and pedestrian circulation.

The Hampstead Main Street Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee held the event, more than a year after its first question-and-answer session.

Co-chairmen of the committee are Dennis Wertz, who heads the town planning commission, and Wayne H. Thomas, a town councilman.

A draft of the revitalization plan was completed in August, said Deepa Srinivasan, the project planning director of the Baltimore office of Whitney, Bailey, Cox & Magnani consulting engineers.

"We've made a few changes since then," she said. "What we're doing is working toward a final plan. The open house is to let people know where we are -- a basic introduction."

Stations and exhibits were set up to outline their ideas for land use, planning, and traffic, and to get responses from residents, said Srinivasan, who was assisted by James Holls, traffic consultant, and David Powlen, chief landscape architect of their firm.

"One common thread in all our interviews, was people saying, 'We want to stay a small-town community. We want to maintain that small-town character,' " said Srinivasan.

Last night's crowd seemed to agree with that sentiment.

David P. Miller, a local architect and operator of a bed-and-breakfast near town, said Hampstead needed, like Ellicott City, "a general look to the town that tends to capture people."

Martha Millender, a Main Street resident, said the town didn't need "cutesy shops. The garages, the carpet businesses, these are really the backbone of our business community. You talk about shops, but remember there are also homes on Main Street. If you go back to the small towns, the way they were, small towns were not all businesses."

The proposed plan divides the long-and-narrow town into six sectors, recommending differently proportioned mixes of commercial, office and residential uses for each.

A few of its recommendations are:

Burying overhead utility lines to improve the look of the town.

Hiring a downtown manager to keep, recruit and promote businesses, and to seek grants and low-interest loans, working with the Hampstead Business Association.

Creating the position of code official to control signs and blight, along with an ordinance to regulate rental properties. Property-tax breaks and other incentives also should be used to encourage improvements.

Pedestrian-friendly amenities such as trees, raised planters, pocket parks, and sidewalk improvements, making them wider and using brick and concrete pavers to "mimic sidewalks of the past."

Removing nonparallel parking in the roadway, reducing parking lot openings, and improving curbs.

Installing traffic-calming islands to reduce vehicles' speed and give pedestrians a shorter distance to cross the busy street. "The islands do not infringe on roadway space [but] cause traffic to slow down by giving the illusion that the road is narrow in certain areas."

Creating brochures and signs, and coordinating store hours for a cohesive environment, for a more regional draw.

The plan recommends relocating some auto-related uses that "create a hostile pedestrian environment," in favor of crafts or antique stores that draw residents and visitors.

As to rumors of a planned Wal-Mart or similar "category killer" store, the planners said flatly: "Hampstead is unlikely to survive an invasion of Wal-Mart or any other giant discount store unscathed."

The unknown in the town's plans is the timetable and long-term effect of its long-sought state bypass to get through truck traffic off Route 30 -- Hampstead's Main Street.

The bypass has been approved by the state and is entering the land-acquisition phase.

Planning in America since World War II followed demands for free and rapid traffic flow, plenty of parking, and a rigorous separation of uses, the planners said, "with the result that car traffic and social isolation have become the central unavoidable experience of the public realm."

The resulting ordinances ironically mean that anyone who tries to create an Annapolis-style town today would require a host of code variances, they said. "A traditional pattern of walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods has been inadvertently proscribed by these ordinances."

Pub Date: 10/29/98

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