Mount Airy has produced an insightful master plan that will guide development so that the best features of the town's character are preserved and enhanced. If used properly, this master plan will enable town officials and citizens to control -- rather than be whipsawed by -- change.
Mount Airy is unusual. Half the town lies in Frederick County, the other half in Carroll. Although the town's population is about 3,700, it is the shopping and civic center for more than 26,000 people spread over four adjoining counties. Mount Airy is a picturesque little town that has not yet been subjected to explosive growth pressures.
However, a great many forces beyond the town limits -- such as development in Montgomery County spreading up Route 27 and the unfettered growth in the southeast corner of Frederick County -- could have a detrimental impact on Mount Airy.
The master plan, drawn up by town planner Teresa M. Bamburger, acknowledges these factors. More than a land use and zoning document, it was designed to encourage aesthetically pleasing and environmentally responsible development.
It takes a comprehensive view of Mount Airy from a variety of perspectives that include the town's hilly topography, its abundant ground water resources, significant buildings, street patterns and the town's relationship with surrounding counties. The plan provides a framework and a context for evaluating future residential and commercial development.
One of the most interesting chapters is entitled, "Enhance the Public Realm." It addresses the question of how to integrate new development with the town's existing buildings, streets and open spaces.
There are proposals to refine Mount Airy's identity by creating gateways and thoroughfares, more clearly defining the town center and establishing a park to link newer developments with each other and with Main Street.
The approval of the master plan is just beginning. The town's citizens owe it to themselves to participate in the process. This master plan will define their future, and they should have a say. Interested citizens from other towns would also be well-served to spend some time looking through the master plan because it is a good model for controlling and accommodating change.