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South Bowie citizens group considers shutting down as membership, interest wane

By Alan J. McCombs | The Gazette,

In its 16 years of operation, the Citizens Association of South Bowie has stood up for a variety of community issues.

Now, organization leaders are considering disbanding it next year because of waning membership and interest.

“I can’t convince my neighbors to join,” said Joe Duffy, the group’s treasurer and one of two remaining officers. “I guess the old spirit is gone.”

South Bowie is home to about 13,850 residents, said John Fitzwater, Bowie’s assistant city manager.

Membership at its peak included 35 households across south Bowie, but the group has barely attracted 10 people for its bimonthly meetings recently, Duffy said. Posts such as vice president and secretary have gone unfilled, and the group has not had a general meeting in six months, said Russ Ideo, a longtime member and current president.

Bowie Mayor G. Frederick Robinson said the group had been a stalwart advocate for southern Bowie.

“I guess I’m not surprised. The last couple of meetings I had been to, the membership had started to drop off,” he said. “In their time, they took on some legitimate issues.”

The contentious debate of creating an Amber Ridge Shopping Center near the intersection of Pointer Ridge Drive and Route 301 led to the creation of the group. Residents feared that the plan would pour traffic onto Pointer Ridge Drive, Ideo said. Through its efforts, the association won a concession that, should the site be established, traffic would be funneled onto Route 301, Ideo said.

The group eventually voiced opinions on development projects throughout the area, Ideo said. In an effort to show that the group wasn’t antidevelopment, the association picked up the cause of pushing for a library in south Bowie, he said. That cause came to fruition Oct. 25, when the county library system opened the South Bowie Library.

“It’s really a dream come true,” Ideo said.

Having few people interested in a civic association might not be a bad thing, said Karen DeFazio, president of the Glen Allen Homeowners Association.

“Things are quiet,” she said. “Few people at meetings, in general, means contented communities.”

Time and success sapped the group’s energy, Ideo said.

As original members have moved or left the organization, leadership has struggled to find others willing to take their place, Duffy said.

“The people I talk to who complain the most, I tell them to join the organization or call the city, and they don’t,” he said. “They just complain.”

There is still a need for some organization that stands up for residents in negotiations with government and developers, said Robert Richardson, president of the Amber Meadows II homeowners association.

“Most of these government entities want to raise revenue any way they can, and if they have to choose between public concerns and revenue, they’re going to choose revenue,” he said.

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