June 16, 2024

Lexington Park: A Big Change of Plan

By Viki Volk

All that really remains of the old Flattops neighborhood are the cherry trees. You can see them in blossom in the video below. They’re historic, the trees are, as were the houses. The Navy hired a famous architect to design the neighborhood in the 1950s. But the houses are gone now.  All but one was razed in the prelude to BRAC 2005.

The video is a bit dizzying, bouncing up and down poorly maintained roads, which, come to think of it, are another thing that remains at the Flattops, poorly maintained and some completely unmaintained roads crumbling into dirt.

That’s pretty much how it’s going to stay, according to the latest iteration of a Lexington Park development plan. So reported county planning officials to the Lexington Park Business and Community Association last month.

That’s a big change in plans. Dating back to the early 1990s a parade of revitalization plans sketch a triangle of low density office buildings with a lot of shrubbery from the tip  at Rt. 235 and Great Mills Road down nearly 100 acres to the southeast.

So a big change on paper, but not a big surprise.

Since adoption of aircraft overflight zoning restrictions in 1979, the Flattops and other proximate properties lost the ability to secure financing for improvements, expansion, or intensification. The restrictions minimize congregation in potential accident zones, pretty much the opposite formula as successful development.

The update being developed by St. Mary’s County Planning Commission takes a “conservative approach” to the overflight zone, said  director of St. Mary’s County Land Use and Growth Management Phil Shire. “The AICUZ is something we have to live with.”

No surprise there either. And even something refreshing about finally an honest assessment. Perhaps now we can move on beyond “waiting for developer participation” in Planner Jeffrey Jackman’s words.

OK. The houses are gone and it is time to put away the lovely sketches of what might have been. Regroup. Reconnoiter. There are roads, roadbeds at least. And though unseen, public sewer lines run beneath the crumbling asphalt. And there are those cherry trees. We need to re-imagine the Flattops.

So, yes, a tad bit of cherry tree nostalgia, but think of it, cherry trees! It’s a cool property over there and just because it doesn’t fit yesterday’s plans says nothing about the future. Isn’t that somehow the point of planting all those little trees so long ago?


One Response to “Lexington Park: A Big Change of Plan”
  1. Carolyn Egeli says:

    With those beautiful cherry trees, of course a public park is what needs to be there. I’ve been there in the evening driving around among the blossoms..couldn’t be more beautiful. We could have our own Cherry Blossom Festival.With the sewer lines there could be some rest stations and maybe a concession stand or two…With the theatre in the old library, maybe some sort of small outdoor amphitheater could work? close by? Maybe a race or two could be held on the old roads. How about a venue for the Chesapeake Orchestra?at the peak of the blossoming time? Maybe timing could be arranged with the base for flyovers as part of the event or to avoid the events? Charlie Hewett and Tom Watts were talking about a scultpure garden. That sounds lovely too. Maybe a soda fountain could be restored in on of the old stores across the way, now storing used furniture. Linda could run it as it would be right next door. I remember all of that area when a child. When five, I visited other children who lived in the flat tops in 1953. The stores were some of the only ones around. There was a children’s shoe store, a nice clothing store or two, a drug store with a nice soda fountain, and a small grocery store. My siblings and I out on the farm, LIVED to get to this little strip of stores. It was all there was unless you went to Leonardtown.

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