Residents Weigh In on County's Vision for Bryans Road

David Young, who moved to the Kingsview development in search of tranquillity, is unhappy that the planned cross-county highway would lie near his home.
David Young, who moved to the Kingsview development in search of tranquillity, is unhappy that the planned cross-county highway would lie near his home. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)

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By Ann E. Marimow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 22, 2005

Like its location, sandwiched between Indian Head Highway and Charles County's planned four-lane thoroughfare, Bryans Road is at a crossroads, residents say.

What started as a resting spot between the District and the Navy base at Indian Head has grown up as a bedroom community. Now residents who have formed a group called Protect Bryans Road will gather tomorrow night to help map its future.

More development is inevitable, they say, but how many roads, homes and stores should be built, and where?

At issue is the county's vision for the community and the cross-county connector. The four-lane highway is on course to link Bryans Road in western Charles County with bustling Waldorf and Route 5.

"A lot of people fear that once you rezone that property, there are going to be bulldozers converging on Bryans Road and reshaping everything that exists there," said David Umling, the county's planning director. "That is not the case. It just establishes rules for future development."

From 2000 to 2010, the population in and around Bryans Road is projected to grow from 10,786 to 11,764. By 2020, that number will reach 12,103, according to population estimates for the area that includes Bryans Road and Indian Head.

In March, more than 300 residents listened to county officials present their vision for a tree-lined village center in Bryans Road, similar to those in Chestertown and Leonardtown. Planners are tweaking that blueprint in response to concerns from residents and in preparation for a meeting next month with the county commissioners.

Emily Canavan, one of the leaders of Protect Bryans Road, grew up just across the county line, in Accokeek. The area's small-town, rural feel, she said, does not match plans that would allow for five-story buildings and 10 homes or apartments per acre.

"It's just not ready for it,'' she said. "The schools haven't even caught up."

Just as troubling to Canavan's organization is the final stretch of the cross-county connector from Middletown Road to Route 210. The group wants the project to stop at Middletown Road and divert cars to the north.

"This is a mechanism to dump a tremendous amount of traffic in Bryans Road," said Elmer Biles, who has lived there for 50 years.

Since 1992, the four-lane road has inched toward completion. The commissioners have approved $12.4 million in bonds for construction for the budget year that begins July 1.

Proponents say the road is necessary because there is no efficient, safe course from one end to the other of the fast-growing northern section of the county. The existing route, Billingsley Road, is a two-lane series of tight curves and dips that many consider too dangerous to handle the traffic.

"This road is desperately needed," said Del. Murray D. Levy (D-Charles), the longtime president of the county commissioners until his appointment last year to the General Assembly. "The debate is over. It is time to move on."

Not for residents such as David Young. A retired social worker, Young moved to Charles County five years ago in search of trees and quietude. The new four-lane road would cut through the woods behind his housing development, Kingsview.

"I knew other homes would be built," Young said, "but I wasn't aware of this future road."

County Commissioner Edith J. Patterson (D-Pomfret), whose district includes Bryans Road, said, "I share their concerns about growth; I share their concerns about schools. I'm not interested in hysteria.''

Issues such as the height of buildings in the commercial center can be discussed, she said, and the cross-county connector might bring businesses to the community. "These are things we can work on together," she said.

Protect Bryans Road -- http://www.protectbryansroad.org -- will meet at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the Bryans Road Fire Station. The county is accepting comments from the public on the plan through May 31 by letter or e-mail to blessinga@charlescounty.org .


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