Greenway described as a reason to unite

Economic benefits require it, businesses told

April 21, 1999|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Ellicott City businesses should unite if they are to take advantage of economic benefits resulting from a possible Patapsco Heritage Greenway project, a consultant advised them yesterday.

Elaine Carmichael, who works for Economic Research Associates and is an adviser for the Patapsco Heritage Greenway Committee, met with the Ellicott City Business Association. The greenway proposal has stirred controversy as opponents worry about the environmental impact of the project that would link towns along the river through a trail network in Baltimore and Howard counties, which includes Patapsco Valley State Park.

Carmichael talked to business representatives about problems the greenway would pose, such as parking.

But Carmichael and committee member Marsha McLaughlin said issues such as parking are ones about which businesses need to be organized so the project would not become a headache if Main Street swells with tourists attracted to Ellicott City because of the greenway.

"The Patapsco Heritage Association could be an opportunity, but is there a willingness to seize the opportunity," said McLaughlin, also Howard County's deputy director for planning and zoning. "There are a lot of people who have pushed, then found difficulty. There are others who say, `I'm doing OK, and I've tried beating my head against the wall, and I'm not interested.' "

Apathy is a word that popped up repeatedly during the meeting as a reason for the low attendance -- 10 to 15 people -- and for the fact that state approval for the greenway has become what one merchant described as an uphill battle.

The businessman, Pat Patterson, host of the meeting at his Main Street restaurant, said the toughest task is getting people to work together. While two communities, Relay and St. Denis, have rejected the greenway project and two more are debating whether it's a good idea, the best defense that proponents can muster against a vocal opposition is a claim of silent majority.

"We have people who say, `It's not my problem. I'm doing well,' " said Patterson, owner of PJ's for 15 years. "Our biggest strength is our biggest weakness. [Business owners] don't want to join in a group, and they just want to do their own thing."

Pub Date: 4/21/99

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