The following is text in its entirety from an email that the Maryland Department of Planning received on September 7, 2011 during the public comment period for the PlanMaryland draft. The writer is a resident of southern Carroll County. Name has been withheld.
Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2011
Subject: The Future Is Now
My husband and I are retiring, frugal folk. We came to an isolated corner of southern Carroll County back when interest rates were way down. Today’s pundits would tell you that we were following the American Dream of our generation: a big house on a big lot, far from the madding crowd. We were more interested in the family-friendly community we found here—and that low mortgage payment.
Obviously, we contributed to the sprawl that plagues our county today. Thankfully, our children have chosen not to follow our example. Their version of the American Dream reads more like a page out of PlanMaryland. Let me explain.
My eldest daughter moved to Baltimore right after graduation—our quiet, rural life was BORING—and she lived, worked and played in the city for ten years. Then she went to Chicago to be with her boyfriend. They have no car. They’d rather ride bikes and use Chicago’s five-star transit system.
My second daughter is married with one son. They recently moved to a row-house in northern Virginia to be near their gaming buddies—oh yeah, and work. She drives her husband to the metro–when he isn’t telecommuting. The school is within walking distance. Swimming pool, library, and grocery store are a bike ride away. You might think that if they decide to expand their family, they will want to move into that dream house on three to five acres out by Sugarloaf Mountain. Nah! Her husband hasn’t a clue how to use a lawn mower and has no desire to learn.
My son’s school friends all gravitated to Owings Mills. He has an apartment there, not far from the metro. And no, he hasn’t ever been mugged or robbed. Business, entertainment, and shopping opportunities are less than a five minute drive. He carpools to construction jobs.
My youngest daughter moved to a small town to be near friends too. When we visited her in July, we all walked to the park, then to her favorite restaurant, then to a neat, locally-owned ice cream bar. She doesn’t even have to drive to work because she’s self-employed—via her computer.
For the last three years, I’ve been volunteering at an after-school program in Baltimore. I saw drug deals going down in a near-by park and vacant houses across the street. But there was also a community garden, a convenience store had just opened down the block, and real estate agents and contractors swarmed about looking for business.
Today, all but one of the houses are occupied or being re-habbed. That drug-infested park has been turned by the neighborhood association into a tree-shaded playground with soft mulch replacing the concrete. There is a real farm covering half a block, run by community volunteers, that sells fresh vegetables and herbs. Across the street, a vacant building has been turned into stylish apartments, and everyone grows flowers.
I tell these stories to show that Smart Growth is already happening. From my own personal experience, I have seen that young people embrace its key concepts of sustainability, efficiency and thrift, concepts that were once an important part of the American ethos. They are choosing close-knit communities near to parks, schools, shopping, and work over the isolation and expense of distant estates; cheap, convenient public transportation, bike routes, and telecommuting over traffic snarl. The future excites and energizes them, and they are shaping it even as we speak. It is they who will embrace Plan Maryland to create their own version of the American Dream, and this old Boomer plans to help them in any way she can.