TOWN Councilman Joe Jordan aptly sums up Manchester's dilemma about a proposed bypass for Route 30, which now runs through the community:
"You want it, but you don't want it. If we had our way, we'd build stone walls and give each member of the town a key."
The decidedly small town wants to remain so, with an old-time Main Street and a legally prescribed limit on population. The state bypass to divert the heavy north-south truck traffic from clogging Main Street is needed.
One way to get state approval for the costly project may be to rezone town land along the bypass route for industrial development. That solution, recently posed by county economic development chief Jack Lyburn, might save the main drag but at the cost of the town's essential character.
As with so many American towns, the highway brought vital traffic and commerce to Manchester over the years and helped it to prosper. But development to the north in Pennsylvania and to the south in Hampstead and Baltimore County -- both beyond the town's control -- increased the through traffic, at 18,000 trips a day, to the point where something has to give.
The Route 30 bypass was on the table for decades, until Gov. Parris N. Glendening killed it with the Smart Growth program, which limits new road projects that could promote development sprawl.
The Lyburn proposal to rezone 300 acres or so for industrial use might theoretically clear the Smart Growth hurdle (while expanding the county inventory of marketable industrial property).
But that wouldn't much improve chances of a state go-ahead for the bypass because, like it or not, the $70 million-plus price tag is another strong disincentive.
Manchester's best chance to retain its town character and relieve traffic congestion still lies in intersection improvements, travel and turn lanes, new stoplights and a northern roundabout. That's certainly better than a stone wall.