Saturday, March 09, 2013

Melford Testimony

This Bowie Patch article is about the Bowie City Council approving amendments that would allow residential development at Melford, the office park at which I work. I spoke during the public comment section preceding the vote. I didn't think it would do much good to tell the Council my opinion on whether the development is a good idea -- for one thing, they seemed to have their minds made up. For another, as left-wing as I am about some things, I think that businesses have the right to try out their own business plans without the government having to figure out whether they're going to succeed. So I focused on the impact on the City of Bowie, and I chose to highlight one particular impact. From the article:

Jon Grantham, who works in the Melford office park, moved to Bowie so he could be closer to work and appreciates the idea of people wanting to be close to their jobs. Grantham said he sometimes bikes the four miles to work at Melford and that currently, the property is not very pedestrian or bike friendly.

“When you get to the end of Belair Drive and you enter Melford Drive it becomes, and there’s no better word for it, scary,” Grantham said, citing a lack of side paths and sidewalks.

The development, said Grantham, is currently so automobile focused, he’s concerned it could never be pedestrian friendly. He suggested the city make connecting bike paths and trails connecting Melford to the rest of Bowie mandatory in the development to increase connectivity and pedestrian safety. The connections Grantham mentioned are suggested in the city’s Trails Master Plan, adopted in 2002.
I didn't think I actually gave the impression that it could never be pedestrian-friendly, but I guess I do have that skepticism, so maybe it came across. I mean, the closest restaurants by walking distance (other than the on-site cafe) are 2.6 miles away, according to Google Maps. I'm sure the developer would love if residents could only walk to on-site dining options, but the glaring visibility of that fact would probably keep some number of residents away.

Anyway, here are my remarks, as prepared. I deviated significantly from them in places, not always to great effect.
Greetings, Councilmembers and Mayor Robinson. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

My name is Jon Grantham. I first worked in what is now known as Melford in the summer of 1989, and I have worked there full-time since 1997. I am not speaking on behalf of my employer, rather for myself and for my family.

We bought a house in Bowie in large part to be closer to my work so I could spend more time with our twins. I sometimes make the 4-mile commute on my bicycle -- once I even walked it. The first three miles are very pleasant. Levitt really knew how design an attractive community. Where Belair Drive ends and Melford Drive begins, however, it becomes -- there’s no better word for it -- scary. There are no sidewalks or side paths, and bicyclists and pedestrians are forced to merge with traffic which has just exited major highways.

I do not understand how St. John Properties proposes to build and market a pedestrian-friendly and environmentally responsible community in a part of Bowie so dependent on automobile traffic, and which is so cut off from the rest of the City.

The City’s 2002 Trails Master Plan shows proposed trails connecting Melford to the rest of Bowie. The trail along Melford Drive is the most direct link, but the ones along Crain Highway would connect the proposed community to Whitemarsh Park to the north and retail to the south.

I believe that unless the City explicitly makes this connection a requirement of approving a site plan, all the talk of green development will be just a joke. Please only approve these amendments if you intend to make sure this development is compatible with the rest of Bowie and its green principles. That means a development with bike and pedestrian trails that connect to the rest of Bowie.

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