Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Here’s my challenge to ease traffic

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It has long been the Town of New Market’s experience that growth occurs around us without deriving any benefit, especially a bypass.

The recent traffic study that inexplicably excluded a bypass has only served to heighten those fears. After promises in an ‘‘Open Letter” from the Frederick Board of County Commissioners to explore an alternative bypass without adding thousands of homes and traffic, it appears we may get both.

Town leaders accurately predicted years ago that no matter the leadership of the Board of County Commissioners, we were going to get the Eaglehead development and all its ill affects.

We applaud commissioners for reducing the level of planned development in the New Market Region Plan. But increasing traffic on Main Street by 150 percent attributable to just one subdivision just doesn’t work.

This is the reason we wanted to annex property for a bypass. It would remove traffic from Lake Linganore that would offset that added by Eaglehead. The Ijamsville Road Corridor Study sheds light on this.

During our annexation process, town leaders tried to explain this to the commissioners. For some reason, commissioners think that Lake Linganore traffic would drive right past the bypass in order to drive through Main Street to get to Route 75.

Now, in light of their most recent traffic study, the commissioners are clearly frustrated because the study proves what the town’s leaders have said to them all along. Specifically, there can be no development in the New Market region without a bypass that simply doesn’t crush Main Street with traffic.

What is the commissioners’ response? Rather than address this academically, one has chosen to characterize us as ‘‘chumps.”

Commissioners characterize town leaders as desiring massive development. Ironically, it is their massive development that is causing the problems.

Given the promises that commissioners made regarding a non-developer-funded bypass and incorrectly characterizing the town’s purpose for the annexations, I do not believe that residents thought they said yes to Eaglehead and more traffic when they said no to annexation.

The sad thing is that by saying ‘‘no,” town residents have unwittingly given away any say over the traffic the commissioners are about to place upon us. Had we said yes, we would at least have some bargaining power.

Now, all I can do is issue this challenge to the commissioners: Eliminate the massive (3,500-unit) Eaglehead development. Investigate the Smith-Cline proposal for a bypass as the only property planned for development in the New Market region. (It is 925 units. It will have far less impact on school overcrowding and road congestion.)

If given the option, don’t you think residents would vote ‘‘yes” to less development, traffic and school overcrowding?

Please stop calling us ‘‘chumps” and whatever other names you privately say to our residents. Creating dissention and divisiveness is not good leadership.

Stop anticipating our next election. It demonstrates that you are more interested in injecting yourselves into our political process than solving traffic issues that will not go away regardless of town leadership.

Remember, it is the vision of the current leadership that has led to all the new shops people love, playing fields for LUYAA, and other improvements such as public water.

I think the ‘‘chumps” deserve more credit and respect for what we’ve accomplished, and what we hope to achieve.

Regardless of what commissioners would like to think, we are truly decent people.

Winslow Burhans, New Market

The writer is the mayor of the Town of New Market.