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Sasha Carrera
Feb 17, 2018

Lessons from Urbana

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I attended the Urbana presentation and was rather outspoken in my disdain for what "planning" did for Urbana. I was invited to contribute my views about what should have been done differently to preserve the integrity of this area my mother grew up in and where I spent so much of my childhood.

I believe the planners should have used the towns of New England as their guides. Even Philadelphia's Main Line echoes some of the ideas I will lay out here. As it is, Urbana looks like a glorified pit stop -- somewhere people pull off to get gas and fast food. The "living" part of it is secondary and amounts to bedrooms for commuters who work in Rockville or DC. It's not a "village" it's another version of the ugliness that plagues Northern Va along Rt 7, Lee Hwy, Rt 50, etc.

1. Light rail extending through Connecticut from NYC and through Massachusetts from Boston provide excellent models of commuter towns that have their own charm and integrity. Light rail should have been the first course of action linking Urbana to Frederick to the north and Rockville to the south.

2. At the center of town is a green space where people can gather, a central focus for the area. For Urbana, historic buildings such as the house where the Stanchoff's lived (Landon house you call it) the Turning Point, the Peter Pan, and that poor brick building that's now squeezed into so many townhouses thanks to Natelli. Those are of visual and historic interest. Preserving them and the green areas around them would have provided a focal point and preserved the character of this town. They were also what made Urbana, at one point, a destination, instead of a drive through. Around the green/historic central area should be shops and meeting places and then extending beyond those should be the houses instead of rows and rows of development with no "there" there. Spokes of a wheel from a central meeting spot would have been a better model. Rather than making it about gas, then Starbucks, then strip malls and acres of houses and already overcrowded schools and increased crime and traffic that backs up for miles every time school lets out early.

3. You should have left the layout of the roads alone and found a way to augment in stead of circumvent. Things of interest, Zion Church, the old school house have been marginalized instead of highlighted. The row of houses where the Ettls lived was completely cut off, the bizarre traffic circles and now the weird hiccup past the old Urbana school that meets up with the townhouse city is strange and insulting. Why change what worked for generations? Instead of adding to what was here, you completely marginalized and effaced it. I find that disrespectful and lacking in imagination and aesthetic sensibilities.

4. The sea of houses rising above what were lovely rolling hills between Urbana and Frederick on 355 is horrific. Turning off Park Mills has become next to impossible thanks to the traffic. Light rail would have solved much of that and some other plan to preserve vistas instead of greedy use of every last square inch of property. Perhaps in future communities, you will take some of these ideas to heart and not ruin what's charming in your quest for growth.

 

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  • beelee
    Feb 28

    As a 30 year resident of Detrick Rd Jesse Smith Road area I have driven between New Market and Mount Airy on Rt 144 thousands of times. Every time I look at the unused land between 144 and 70 and I imagine a linear park/bike path that would connect New Market and Mount Airy. I did some research on the tax map and a decent percentage of this land is publicly owned and some parcels are private with a few homes and a business or two currently in the path. (one home was recently abandoned) A very high percentage of this land is currently unused and ripe for a bike path. I would love to have someone in the Frederick county planning commission investigate the possibility of such a park/path. As for the exiting few residential properties along the route go around them on rt 144 for the couple hundred feet of frontage and then return to the route to the off road path. Next time you drive this route imagine the potential. If you build it they will come.