At any given moment we are living in interesting times because it is our moment. Historians note generational divides dreamed up by demographers, with obscure phrases like Baby Boomer or Generation X or Millennials. My parents raised me in what was called the Silent Generation. They must have been puzzled by the name as they worked to figure out a teenager who was hard to figure out.
My wife and I have had a home on the Eastern Shore for thirty-four years. As long as I can remember various officials have argued about another bridge across the Chesapeake but I don’t remember a more defining moment locally, than now. Today in Talbot County, a least, feels different; the future is on the public agenda. It will, at least in part, be decided by the Talbot County Council’s decisions on future growth parameters of Lakeside Village and attendant requirements.
Twenty plus years ago a developer was granted a permit (arguably) to build 2,501 homes and supporting businesses on approximately 900 acres. In 2003 Trappe annexed the development footprint. And there has been a fog of advocacy, litigation and government procedures in more recent years.
In the meantime, our home county traffic patterns have become more dense, big box stores have displaced space, water quality measurements have become worse and the word pressure is frequently used in describing Talbot County’s future. In short much of consequence has happened in the last twenty years.
As concrete space grew the theme began to change. When Lakeside Village was annexed, the dominant theme paired population growth with economic well-being. The critics of rapid growth were around but they had to fight uphill.
My sense is that the theme is being re-written because a majority no longer embrace lightly constrained growth. Each of us might voice our concerns differently but if forced to answer a single survey question, more would say “let’s slow down”.
I don’t think people are averse to job growth but want the kind of growth that is attracted to living the good life where a better life is still on offer.
As noted, the current state of play is defined by state and local government agencies, commissions, councils and the lawyers that contend this and that. But out of this fog of advocacy and bureaucracy development definitions and permissions at Lakeside Village will come. Here are some of the questions that should be asked and answered.
What is the character of our county? Should it be altered and if so, how? And maybe to be more particular we should be asked to rank on a scale of 1 to 5 (with 1 being the least important and 5 the most) those key features that define our daily lives. My words: job growth, more retail shopping, education, safety, recreation, traffic. Add your own; this should be a citizen led evaluation.
The Maryland Department of the Environment has called an intermission. Talbot County officials are once again going to size up the Lakeside development and reach decisions on size, scope, timing and the like. We normally think of intermissions as a time to take a breath, to renew. This is our time, let’s use it well.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.