Growth, the topic of debate for more than a decade in Poolesville, was the issue again this week at a public hearing on a new master plan for this tiny community 20 miles northwest of Rockville.
"I think we are making a mistake if we have a density of less than 6,000 (people) within the town limits," said Joseph Lynott, the developer of a 94,000-square-foot shopping center that is still in the planning stages.
"We should ask how people want to live, instead of how many inhabitants are needed to support commercial c ventures," reponded another person in the audience of less than 50.
"I believe a density of 13,000 people is rural town," said another individual, who said he was a "new-comer" from a New England community where modest growth did not destroy that town's rural atmosphere.
The question of immediate growth for this rural community is moot, according to Arnold Berke, a Montgomery County planner who is working with the town to develop the new master plan.
At the public hearing Monday night at Poolesville High School, Berke said a 1976 state-imposed water and sewer moratorium has limited growth to 5,500 by the year 2000. The moratorium, Berke said, has cut in half the population projections that were included in the town's 1974 master plan.
According to BErke and Melissa Banach planner for the Poolesville area, there are number of "infrastructure constraints" that may limit future growth and planning for the small town, which has had difficulty providing adequate sewer and water facilities for its residents.
Banach said continued debate over growth was one reason town officials decided to seek aid from the county in developing a new master plan. Shesaid the Montgomery County Planning Board has received $25,000 in federal funds for two years and plans to provide Poolesville with an additional $5,000 in staff support to develop the master plan.
She said the master plan is now in the beginning stages and it will take two years before the process is complete. She said the first stage of the plan - an issues and alternatives report - will be ready by the end of September.
Banach emphasized that Poolesville is incooporated, with zoning and planning powers of its own, and that the town commissioners will ultimately have to approve the master plan for the town. She said the Montgomery County Council and county executive will have to approve sections of the plan involving nearby areas that are under county jurisdiction.
Meanwhile, the debate over growth - which has been going on since the town grew from about 340 prior to 1970 to its current figure of 3,200 - raged at the hearing.
"This is farming land, not building land - what are you gonna do when it rains and this land turns into a swamp?" asked a "new-comer" who said she and her husband moved from Rockville to Poolesville to retire.
Another Poolesvillian, an "old-timer," said she did not want Poolesville to become a "static museum" but added. "Just because I'm here. I don't want someone else barred from coming to Poolesville."
Frank Harris, a town commiccioner, said "People are asking for certain commercial services. There is no way a developer is going to take risks. We are going to have to ask what it takes to satisfy demands."
A former mayor of Poolesville. Eugene E. Halmos, had concerns about the master plan, such as contingencies for historical preservation. "I can't see why I should maintain my house at my cost for the benefit of other people."
Halmos said he was not against preserving historic property. "but at whose expense?"
Another topic prompting comment form the audience - equally represented by Poolesville residents and those who lived nearby - was the county road system that leads into and out of the rural community.
Planners explained that the only improvements planned for nearby roads in the immediate future were "surface" improvements and "taking out some of the bends."
"The commute is our town's worst drawing card," said one member of the audience, who was quickly susported by nods of heads from others.
"This Rte. 28 is going to become an I 270 if his town continues to grow." said someone else, who added that he believed Poolesville residents "work down county, play down county and even (get their) religion down county."
As the meeting - which lasted about two hours - drew to a close, Harris said he believed the small gathering was "too limited" and that the planners should go out and sample the community of 3,200 in order to property develop a master plan.
A posible town survey, discussed at thia week's meeting and earlier meetings with town officials. prompted Montgomery County planners to offer the aid of a planning staff statistcian to develop a survey.
"I believe it is within the category of staff aid," said Banach.