A plan begun 14 years ago to eliminate duplicate street names and numbered streets in all of Prince George's County has come under fire in Cheverly. The plan is scheduled to take effect there within one year.
The plan, administered by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, has met with little opposition in areas south of Central Avenue. But Cheverly residents are voicing loud objections to losing their street addresses.
At a recent town meeting, Frank Young, chief of Park and Planning's House Number and Street Name Division, told town officials and citizens that all house numbers will be changed along with some 33 street names.
Cheverly residents acknowledged street name changes as a "fait accompli" since Park and Planning was mandated in 1958 by the state legislature to institute the plan. Nevertheless, approximately 50 disgruntled residents shouted their objections to the plan at Young and Park and Planning Chairman W.C. (Bud) Dutton during the town meeting.
"There's a certain amount of pride associated with an address," said H. Rodgers Gore, a longtime Cheverly resident.
Many said they were outraged at learning they would lose their addresses because a street of the same name already existed in a newer part of the county where the plan is established.
"The town of Cheverley should get priority consideration," a woman told Young. She appeared particulary distraught after hearing, her street, Greenleaf, was to change because the same street name existed in Palmer Park.
Young explained that he used the "democratic process" when deciding which two identically named streets would be renamed. The street with the fewest resident must forfeit its name, he said.
Young said Greenleaf Street in Palmer Park has almost double the number of resident as Greenleaf Street in Cheverly.
"Doesn't civic pride count for anything?" the woman said.
Young and Dutton admitted the task they undertook nearly a decade ago was often arduous and would become more so as the plan-pushed north to highly populated areas of the county.
County officials conceded that Cheverly will most likely be just the first pocket of resistance they meet. They will also discuss their plan in order communities like Hyattsville and Greenbelt.
The plan was devised 19 years ago after a county child died while waiting for an ambulance that went to another street with the same name. Five years later, Young began implementing what is now known as the Grid Address Numbering System.
The system, as outlined in a Park and Planning brochure, is "a mathematical method of assigning an address number to any lot, parcel or acreage regardless of its location within the county."
Park and Planning has labeled the system "simple to implement, easy to use and always predictable."
Central Avenue serves as the north-south boundary. Indian Head Highway functions as the east-west boundary.
Motorists can compute distances by address numbers along a highway and predict the location of an address by checking their speedometers, Park and Planning officials said. Under the system, every 500 feet will be designated a new hundred block, and 10 blocks will approximate one mile. For example, drivers in the 1200 block of a certain street who want to go to the 3000 block would not look for the address until they travel approximately 1.8 miles.
After the correct hundred block is found, Park and Planning officials said, the address is simple to find.If the numbers are increasing, the odd numbers are always on the right and the even numbers are on the left. If the numbers are decreasing, odd numbers are on the left, and even numbers are on the right.
Dutton said the county police and fire officials favor the plan, because it ensures quick and accurate response by emergency vehicles.
But Bernard Gallagher, a volunteer in the Tuxedo Cheverly Fire Company, said that firefighters are baffled by the new system. Until it began to towns the Cheverley company helps serve, he said, firefighters could find 95 per cent of the streets they were called to without using a map."
Now, he said, emergency vehicle drivers often must leaf through a thick book of street name changes before responding a call.
"When you're having a heart attack, you don't want a guy lookin in a book to find you address," Gallagher said.
Street name changes are reported immediately to the county police, and fire communication system and sectional maps with current street name data are available to residents for $1 each.
At the town meeting, citizens became infuriated after learning they must bear the majority of the costs to change street signs because the town is incorporated. In unincorporated areas of Prince George's, the county's Department of Public Works is responsible for erecting new street signs.
Dutton did assure homeowners that the commission notifies some 35 agencies, including the postal service, public utilities and federal and state agencies when changes occur. But Dutton admitted that this was only a partial solace to longtime residents with a collection of personalized stationery.
Cheverly Mayor Robert W. O'Connor said that he will organize a citizen's advisory board to make street name suggestion to the commission.
Since 1963, about 772 street names have been changed within Prince George's County. This has resulted in 45,197 address changes.
In neighboring Montgomery County, a slightly abbreviated plan is now in progress, said David R. Hudgel Jr., supervisor of information records for the county's House Numbers and Street Names Division. The problem is not as severe as in Prince George's County because Montgomery County has few numbered streets and few streets with duplicate names, said Hudgel.
Montgomery County's program will be stepped up in the "every near future" to coincide with a new computerized system of dispatching emergency vehicles, he said.