Historic appreciation on `E'

Waverly Mansion: Panel should reject a gas station across from 1800s home of Howard County's namesake.

May 10, 1999

IF A GAS STATION, convenience store and car wash are built across from historic Waverly Mansion in western Howard County, what can we expect next: the golden arches beside the Statue of Liberty? Wal-Mart next to the White House? Disney World at a Civil War battlefield? Oh, scrap that last idea -- it's already been raised, and rebuked.

It's senseless to sully a Marriottsville building that is on the National Register of Historic Places for the sake of a gas-and-go that could go elsewhere. A village shopping center a quarter-mile from the proposed location is a more appropriate site. The 19th-century mansion was once owned by Col. John Eager Howard, for whom the county is named. He gave it as a wedding gift to his son, George, who like his father, was governor of Maryland.

The county Board of Appeals is to consider the application June 1. The planning board recommended against the project at Marriottsville Road and Warwick Way.

Admittedly, the surroundings have changed a lot the past decade, with construction of the 1,000-home Waverly Woods community and golf course. But the area adjacent to the county-owned mansion is -- and should be -- free of bright lights and garish signs.

Planning Director Joseph W. Rutter Jr., a target of critics who feel Howard County is developing too rapidly, voices no sympathy for the proposal: "They shouldn't be drawing commercial traffic in front of Waverly." Indeed, when Vice President Al Gore and Gov. Parris N. Glendening, among others, advocate Smart Growth, this is what they aim to combat: Sprawl diminishing quality of life.

Waverly Mansion must not become another casualty of commercialization. Appeals board members should recall the dissatisfaction in Baltimore County when another historic home of a community namesake, Samuel Owings, was mistakenly demolished. The board must reject this project.

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