April 23, 2024

Another Master Plan Introduced to Lexington Park

By Viki Volk

Now playing on YouTube: an 18-minute tour de force of the 133-page “starting point” plan to revitalize Lexington Park, Maryland.

Great Mills Road Concept - Lexington Park "Starting Point" Plan

Great Mills Road Concept – Lexington Park “Starting Point” Plan

If you think you’ve heard this before, the opening slides will confirm your suspicions. This latest “starting point” follows 67 years worth of plans dealing with the town that sprung up overnight to give birth to naval aviation.

A few dozen citizens attending the July 2013 Lexington Park Business and Community Association meeting watched the 18-minute video. It was the day naval aviation made history using a computer to land a drone the size of a fighter jet onto a moving carrier. A query within a logical model might be: If we can land a drone on a carrier, why can’t we make Lexington Park a nice place?

Perhaps a land use plan can’t be expected to answer that, but the two questions a Lexington Park plan must address are these: Why does the birthplace of such astonishing engineering and vision look so shoddy? And, how have we failed these past 67 years to expand this pride of place to include the town that birthed it?

Obviously writing and adopting a plan isn’t enough to get Lexington Park back on its feet. We have 67 years of some good, some poor, and some great plans. By and large, the basic premises for the core of Lexington Park remain the same. It seems we know what to do.

More road connections are needed for a safer community and more accessible transportation grid. Property values need to be boosted with more owner-occupied  homes and more expensive homes. Commercial investment is needed in existing structures and in-fill construction.

We just don’t seem to have the tools to accomplish these things.

Of these core needs, public funding can address roads. The stumbling block here is a local history leaving road building, thus by default road planning, to developers. The county has mapped and built only two roads at its own expense in the last 25 years: Pegg Road, which provided a bypass of Great Mills Road to more directly access Pax River, and the dawdling current construction of two blocks to connect the Lexington Park library directly to Great Mills Road.

The other two core needs require private investment. Government can provide an array of incentives and gimmicks to draw investment, but that’s it. Government can’t make private investment happen.

The few dozen citizens at the LPBCA meeting reflected a wide swath of interests and concerns. These too followed the patterns of decades. There were concerns with the area’s growing  poverty and its related ills, the need for businesses to return to the Great Mills corridor, dissatisfaction with current infrastructure conditions, and the need to diversify the economy.

Residents of Colony South brought one refreshingly new request to the table. They seek more connecting roads through their neighborhood, rejecting the cul de sac style that has made the dead-ends in their neighborhood dangerous. Law enforcement officials agree with them; increased traffic reduces crime and the routine patroling of interconnected streets is an economical and effective crime deterrent.

Historically, Lexington Park plans more frequently encounter neighborhoods mobilized against thru-roads. In addition to citing traffic safety concerns, neighborhoods express preference for single access routes into their communities. Testimony opposing a long languishing county bypass of Route 235 (FDR Blvd.) consistently came from the pods of neighborhoods with single access off Route 235 or  Chancellor’s Run Road.

New in this Lexington Park starting point plan is the extent county planners are engaging social media to explain the concepts and garner reactions and suggestions from the community. Jeff Jackman, senior planner with the county’s land use department, is in charge of the Lexington Park Development District Master Plan Update and its Facebook page.

What isn’t new are early grumblings that the plan includes downzoning.

Density isLPMstrPlan2-2 being reduced on residential zoned land along the Route 4 corridor from Route 235 to the Patuxent River. This is a small step toward harnessing the size of the Lexington Park development district.

The size of the district is considered too large to force reinvestment in the core of Lexington Park. The size of the entire Lexington Park Development District enables the continuing commercial development up Route 235, which is credited with bankrupting locally-owned retail and restaurant commerce along Great Mills Road.

FDR Blvd. Concept - Lexington Park "Starting Point" Plan

FDR Blvd. Concept – Lexington Park “Starting Point” Plan

By reducing development potential, downzoning, local governments intend to make development easier and more profitable elsewhere. Government can incentive-ize  as well, through tax incentives, reduced development standards, supportive infrastructure and other strategies to draw development to a targeted district. While efforts to encourage private investment have mixed results, downzoning has near universal results,  opposition and controversy.

Source:  St. Mary’s County Land Use and Growth Management





One Response to “Another Master Plan Introduced to Lexington Park”
  1. Carolyn Egeli says:

    Good article. The big point I come away with is the same as it has always been…you can’t make private money invest in what they don’t want to. So it seems to me, we need to make more public money for more public things, as much as that makes private money wince.

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