Cars and Progress Passing Burtonsville By
Thursday, May 8, 2008
To hear some Burtonsville residents tell it, their community is the Rodney Dangerfield of Montgomery County: It gets no respect.
The past few years have been especially rough, they say, bringing about a feeling that Burtonsville is being overlooked and passed by.
First came an overpass built two years ago that sent Route 29 traffic over Route 198 and turned their crossroads community into a highway exit. Then came the death in February of Marilyn Praisner, their representative on the County Council for 17 years and a key political champion.
Late March brought more bad news: The popular Dutch Country Farmers Market, a community landmark for 20 years that attracts shoppers from across the region with its fresh food, announced it will be moving in the summer to Prince George's County.
Eileena York, a meeting organizer who recently founded a Burtonsville civic group called Citizens Involved, said residents feel like the county's "orphans" in a community that has become downright "dumpy."
"We don't have a strong voice in this county," said York, who has lived in Burtonsville for 16 years.
As Stuart Rochester, a longtime local civic activist, put it: "Burtonsville has a lot of potential, but I think it's suffered from neglect and a lack of clout."
County officials said they're doing what they can to spruce up Burtonsville at a time when budgets are strapped and other aging areas, including Wheaton and the Piney Branch area of Silver Spring, are also clamoring for revitalization projects.
County Executive Isiah Leggett (D), who has lived in Burtonsville for 17 years, noted that losing the Amish market will be "quite painful." He said officials worked hard to keep it but couldn't find commercial space that met the market's needs.
Leggett said the county has helped Burtonsville in the recent past by building a library and community center and installing sidewalks along Old Columbia Pike. He said he and Praisner led the push to set aside $500,000 over the next two budget years for projects to revitalize the community.
But significant improvements, such as easing traffic jams on Route 198, will take far more money than governments now have, he said.
"There's no question it needs revitalization," Leggett said. "The question is the cost and timing of it."