Town ponders street plans

Tuesday is deadline for residents' response to renovation proposals

`Into competition hopper'

July 19, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Union Bridge residents have until Tuesday to send comments to town officials on a revised proposal to renovate and revitalize Main Street.

The turnout for a presentation Monday night at the Community Center disappointed some of the representatives from the town of Union Bridge, its Main Street Revitalization Committee, the State Highway Administration, and the consulting planning and engineering firm, Whitney Bailey Cox Magnani LLP of Baltimore.

Those at the presentation outlined plans for new sidewalks, signs, streetlights, crosswalks, improved parking and a new town square. The original plan was modified after residents made comments at a similar meeting in April.

"We had very good feedback from the town at the last meeting," said David C. Powlen, a landscape architect for the consulting firm.

The proposed changes include a deceleration lane for traffic into the Lehigh Cement Co. plant, four crosswalks, an entrance sign at Route 75 into town, staggered street lights in the residential zone, two possible parking lots and striping to increase the number of spaces, Powlen said.

Activists predict that a beautified town will lure merchants back to Main Street, where former storefronts are apartments. Joan McKee, the Main Street Revitalization Committee chairwoman, said a new business association is planned.

The consultants will submit a final report next month, said Deepa Srinivasan, director of planning for the firm.

Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr. said the final proposal probably would not be on the Town Council agenda before its September meeting.

If approved, the town would "move into the competition hopper" - up against dozens of others around the state for engineering money, said Dennis L. German, assistant chief of SHA's Design Division. About 120 communities in Maryland are in various stages of SHA's Main Street revitalization program: many at the beginning; 40 at the concept-development stage with Union Bridge; 22 completed; 14 under construction.

Union Bridge "has a leg up in the competition" for Community Development funds used to implement the program, German said.

"One thing they look at is the historical character of the community," German said.

The hard part is moving from planning to engineering, he said.

"The key is that it is acceptable to the community and it is buildable," German said. "Hopefully, we will have a consensus of your leadership and your community. That's the heart of it. There has not been one project funded for engineering that has not been funded for construction.""The key is having a community that wants it done," said Robert L. Fisher, SHA's District 7 engineer. Residents would have to give right-of-way agreements for new sidewalks, he said.

If all of the proposed improvements in Union Bridge were made, the cost would be roughly $750,000. The town would have to foot the bill for items not covered under the program, such as benches, trash cans and street lights.

But before the beautification, the town must place a new 8-inch water line and construct two 300,000 gallon water tanks, projects totaling about $2 million for which the money from loans and grants has been secured, said Jones and James L. Schumacher, the town's hired consultant. The projects are ready for an engineering bid and are expected to be completed by next year.

"That's a natural resource we have that I feel will be of value in attracting new businesses to Main Street. We have a lot of water under the ground," Schumacher said. "You can't expect new businesses to come in and then start tearing up the street."

"We definitely want to get our water lines down Main Street first," said Jones, who has been working on Main Street improvements since 1991. A project unrelated to the Main Street development - and in the works longer - is a new Shepherd's Mill Road that is expected to reduce truck traffic on Main Street from 250 to 275 a day to 50 or 60 a day.

"People won't feel as much danger trying to cross the street," Jones said. "If you get your small shops back on the street, I think the people will come.

"We're not going to get a big shopping center - it's only 10 or 15 minutes to Westminster," he said. "We need small novelty shops, near little restaurants."

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