Coll {June 10} should be required reading for all involved in land-use planning for the metropolitan Washington area. As a former resident of Gaithersburg, I felt that Mr. Coll described how progress can destroy the neighborhood and sense of belonging that once existed. Fortunately, I relocated to the suburbs of another metropolitan area that managed to maintain its strong sense of community. When I returned to Washington, I thought Loudoun County had the character and community pride that many of the homoge- neous planned residential neighborhoods lacked.

Many of Fairfax County's discontented citizens sought better quality living in Loudoun, but the bulldozers, the traffic, the taxes and the slow deterioration of community have followed them there. Perhaps the officials in Loudoun should spend some time in the planned residential communities of Montgomery County.



STEVE COLL'S ARTICLE ABOUT Montgomery County touched off a lot of memories. I grew up in Bethesda, and for most of my young life, it changed very slowly.

When the Bethesda Medical Building went in, it seemed to tower over Bethesda, being all of three stories tall. I spent many happy hours in both the Hiser Theater and the bowling alleys underneath. The Bethesda Theater was another of my favorite haunts.

Most of what I remember of my town is gone, replaced by giant tasteless office buildings. Two of the schools I went to have closed. It is almost as if they have torn down my childhood with the town.

Even though I now live in Frederick, I do the daily I-270 dance into Bethesda each day. At least one day a week, I eat breakfast in the Tastee Diner. It's a step through a time warp right back to the '50s. I sense that both Steve Coll and I are suffering from the general rootlessness of the 20th century.


AS A RESIDENT OF MONTGOMERY Village, I think Steve Coll is looking at the wrong aspects of suburbia. If he joined Gaithersburg Help or volunteered at the St. Martin's soup kitchen, he would feel differently about Gaithersburg.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Our architecture is wanting, but our residents are giving. Don't look at our malls and highways -- look under the surface.


POOR STEVE COLL! HE CAME SO CLOSE to having a home town. The trouble was his family moved to Copenhaver, a "development" that abuts Rockville but is not in it. Just a block or two and he could really have lived in Rockville, a town that's not perfect but is a community.

My children grew up here. Three of them have chosen to live and work in Montgomery County, and their sister in Vermont gets homesick a lot. It takes a big effort over many years to build a home town for your kids to be from. Communities don't just happen, they are made. Hundreds of volunteer work hours over the years have made a pretty good one out of Rockville.



THE FAMILY GENEALOGIST, ELIZABETH Burkett, who wrote on June 24 distressed to learn from your May 6 article that 100-year-old grave markers went into the building of many of our area's oldest homes, might feel better if she knew that such headstones may well have come not from the lost graves of our pioneering ancestors, but from graves in England and elsewhere abroad. Headstones often arrived here as ballast in sailing ships, to be later put to use as building material in our early houses -- and garden pathways.



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