When school teacher Carol Martucci moved to Kettering 15 years ago, she had to go "all the way to Dodge Park" to buy milk for her two tiny children.
Martucci, whose sons are now 19 and 17, said residents of the 1,000-acre community in Prince George's County, which has been a model of integration since its first occupants moved in in 1965, weren't against development in those days. "We were ready for it, we needed a shopping center. Now suddenly, there's a feeling it's gone too far."
Most of Kettering's 700 homes, all constructed by builder Albert Turner, are single-family units with trim lawns--comfortable ramblers and colonials with four and five bedrooms--along with some town houses. When the first families moved in they trekked up to the main road to get their mail from a row of boxes fastened to planks. Now there are three country clubs in the area, with a plush, golf-oriented development being built around the newest one. But the major road past the northern edge of their community is still a tortuous two-lane affair with a penchant for flooding at certain times of the year.
While residents welcomed the improvements nearby, tempers flared at the Kettering Civic Federation meeting last week during a discussion of the state highway administration's plans to put a new Motor Vehicle Administration building on state-owned land at the corner of Central Avenue and Rte. 202. The 10-acre parcel abuts the upper corner of the Towns of Kettering subdivision, a growing, solidly middle-class community in Prince George's County's once rural eastern corridor.
"If you just took a dart and threw it, you couldn't have picked a worse place. I just can't think of a worse place for you to have chosen," civic leader Tina Badaczewski told the two state employes who had been called upon to defend the state proposal.
Residents thought that land would be used to widen the two roads and add more turning lanes to alleviate rush-hour traffic jams, traffic jams that one man said make it "so you can't get out of your driveway in the morning" for the 15-mile commute downtown.
Or maybe the parcel would become the site of a post office. But representatives of Maryland's transportation department said it was one of the few state-owned properties large enough to accommodate the DMV facility. They said the state hopes the structure will be completed as early as July 1984.
To Kettering residents, the state's plan is just the latest in a series of undesirable developments slowly forcing urbanization upon their picturesque community, pushing them, like so many others in the Washington area, into a kind of second-generation suburbia they are not at all sure they want.
After last week's meeting, John Walker, a management consultant who is black, compared notes with Agnes Bowersox, a paralegal who is white. They were both annoyed. "I think they should have given more consideration to the impact the MVA would have on our neighborhood," Walker said. Added Bowersox, "We came here for a purpose, which was to live in peace. We never intended to live in a city or an amusement park."
Unusual in Prince George's, Kettering "has always been a mixed neighborhood," said Jacqueline Borelli, one of the first residents and wife of District Judge Francis Borelli. "They were all attorneys, and now they're judges. Sylvania Woods one of the county's first black judges is down the street, and Judge Ralph Powers has a house here."
According to the 1980 census, the community's population is almost evenly divided between blacks and whites. The residents are often united on issues such as their opposition to the MVA, much to the chagrin of prodevelopment officials who can often count on black support for development elsewhere in the county because no-growth advocates are often painted as being antiblack.
Last year, even after furious lobbying by their then-councilman, county officials vote to place a massive new jail on an old farm property a few miles south, near an unpopular landfill. The Capital Centre, home of hockey, basketball and concerts, is about a mile up the road, and the Wild World Amusement park is two or three miles east. Though both facilities are area wide attractions, Kettering residents see them as more traffic for their meager country roads.
Kettering residents sometimes feel that they are hampered in their efforts to organize themselves because with both spouses working and children to raise, "people seem too busy to get involved," said Martucci.
They also have the alarming habit of being able to see both sides of an issue, so when the bond for the new jail was submitted to the voters last fall after widespread publicity of poor conditions there, most Kettering residents voted for it.
During last week's meeting there was talk of lawsuits and political pressures that could be applied by the community that has a very high voter turnout.
But afterwards, apologies were offered. "We've been fussing at you all night and we know you don't make the decisions," Badaczewski told the state representatives soothingly.
Another man tried to see the bright side.
"We're not going to stop the MVA," he said, "so let's give some thought to what it can do for us. We're going to have policemen coming to work there so that'll calm down the traffic, and you'll have state highway people working here. That'll teach'em."