Erika Howsare walks from Laurel Park behind the Hollymead Town Center to the Harris Teeter in said Town Center. From what is supposed to be a “walkable” area, she walks in drainage ditches and discovers sidewalks and stairways to nowhere.
I stepped onto the edge of the wide street and two vehicles swept past quickly. Where the sidewalk reappeared a half-block ahead, red clay and water had covered it during recent rains, making its first 25 or 30 feet unusable. And then it ended again at the intersection with Laurel Park Road. The Neighborhood Model may list â€œpedestrian orientationâ€ at the very top of its 12 Principles for Development, but it’s in the county’s subdivision and zoning regulations where the rubberâ€”so to speakâ€”meets the road. And those ordinances are not yet entirely updated to reflect the Neighborhood Model. Amending them is an ongoing process.
â€œRight now we can’t require sidewalks on all streets in the development areas,â€ says Elaine Echols, a principal planner with the county. â€œWe oftentimes get a proffer from the developer that says that they will do it. Until we get our zoning regulations changed to make it a requirement,â€ she saysâ€”a project she and her staff are working on right nowâ€”walker-friendly development is not as ironclad a guideline as the Neighborhood Model would suggest.
I know this – more and more of my clients want to walk places – coffee shops, grocery stores, schools, friends’ houses – and the County and developers are negligent in not following through in their plans. More are searching for homes by Walkscore.
This much is true – 29 North is remarkably un-walkable, by design, evolution or negligence.