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'Boomtown' business owners tell county planners to leave Route 175 alone WEST COUNTY -- Crofton * Odenton * Fort Meade * Gambrills


Owners of businesses along the 'Boomtown' strip of Route 175 in Odenton know their reputation as a seedy commercial thoroughfare still lingers, but when faced with what some residents see as improvements, the resounding response is to leave them alone.

They don't want a grass median strip down the middle of Annapolis Boulevard, no matter how many turning lanes traverse it. They are leery of an access road and they fear more trees will make their stores and signs invisible to passing traffic.

Despite assurances from county planning officials and committee members who are trying to design a new community that any changes are at least 20 years away, business owners were steadfast in their opposition at a meeting Wednesday night.

"This is only in the planning stage," Alfred Shehab, chairman of the Town Center Growth Management Committee, told a packed audience.

"Let's plan on forgetting it," answered Joe Adamiak, who owns the New Star Inn in the 1600 block of Annapolis Road.

The committee of residents, developers, business owners and county planners has been meeting for more than a year working to draft guidelines for developers who want to build on the 218-acre Town Center land and its periphery.

They have divided Odenton into several parts -- including an historic section, a commercial section and North Odenton, which includes Fort Meade and the Route 175 corridor.

Suggested improvements have included widening Route 175, adding pedestrian crossovers and building a median strip. Also discussed on Wednesday night was adding a local access road in front of the businesses.

"Route 175 is a dominant factor here," said Patricia Barland, the commercial revitalization manager for the Department of Planning and Zoning. "It is the thread that links everything together. It really presents quite a challenge to developing the area."

But business owners complained that the median strip would cut off access. "You are fencing in all these businesses," said Mark Brady, who owns Fort Liquors. "It could have some serious ramifications for us."

Nancy Randall, a traffic manager for the Baltimore-based Traffic Group, a private consulting company, agreed that a median strip won't work under the current design. "But it will work in 20 years, which is what I thought we were planning for," she said.

Mr. Shehab warned the businessmen that they must takes steps to attract the thousands of new residents of the two massive developments in Odenton.

"You will be out of business if you don't keep pace," he said. "You are going to have to compete for the people coming into this area as it grows. You are going to have to improve with it."

But Dennis Watkins, who owns Gemini Tattoo Boutique, complained that newcomers buying expensive homes are trying to run out of town those established businesses that don't meet their standards.

"We don't need any progress that takes us backward," he said. "You might as well bulldoze this place and start over. That is the only way you are going to get what you want."

Mr. Watkins and others complained that the improved suggestions are aesthetically pleasing, but not practical.

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