Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Residents: Clarksburg Historic District needs revitalization

Some want more sidewalks, streetlights for pedestrians

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Some area residents say the Clarksburg Historic District needs a massive revitalization to make it friendlier for pedestrians.

More than a dozen residents told architects and county officials how they think the streetscape of the district should look during a meeting July 1. They suggested adding more sidewalks, installing streetlights and widening the portion of Frederick Road within the district.

The streetscape includes the street and the sidewalks that are public property and the amenities included in that area.

Clarksburg was established in 1752 and is one of the county’s oldest communities. The historic district runs along Frederick Road and is bounded roughly by Clarksburg Road to the northwest and Stringtown Road on the southeast. The district includes 20 historic sites, including an old school and chapel.

The County Council approved a $25,000 study of the Clarksburg Historic District in May 2007. Clarksburg residents requested the study as a first step in the effort to revitalize the historic district.

Pat Darby, president of the Clarksburg Chamber of Commerce whose family has owned lots in the Clarksburg Historic District for several years, said the study is important because certain guidelines need to be in place before the residents receive public water and sewer hookup.

Many of the homes in the Clarksburg Historic District were built in the 1940s. Owners of the 20 buildings in the district have said their septic systems are failing and they cannot afford to fix them.

Stuart Sirota, a town planning expert of Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) Planning Group of Baltimore, is leading the effort to create the design guidelines. He gave residents the opportunity to vote on more than 200 photographs of street, sidewalk, crosswalk, civic space, streetlights and sign designs that could be incorporated in the design guidelines of the history district.

Residents were also asked to tell members of his design team what they liked about the historic district and what needs to be changed.

‘‘I think the historic district has great potential, it is just not obvious,” Sirota said. ‘‘You have a historic district that could be greatly improved by bringing out what is already great about it and making it more walkable. Historic districts are enjoyed at the speed of walking, not at driving through.”

Lisa Karlson, who has lived in Clarksburg for six years, said she would like to see brick sidewalks and nicer streetlights added to the historic district.

‘‘It just feels tired,” she said. ‘‘It has become a forgotten area just naturally because of development and the age of it. It would be nice to see people revitalize it.”

Angie Seymour has lived in a section of Town Center near the historic district since 2003 and said it is in dire need of help. She would like to see red brick sidewalks, more foliage and overhead street lighting.

Kathleen Mitchell, the Clarksburg ombudsman, said a diverse segment of the community was represented at the gathering, even though she would have liked to see more residents attend.

‘‘This is the part where people can say anything without worrying about it,” she said. ‘‘It is just their preference.”

Another community meeting will be held in two weeks to present more historic district options, Sirota said. The final meeting to present the guidelines will take place in about five weeks, he said.