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Planning to Save Perry Hall

No more big developments, says the draft community plan that will govern growth in Perry Hall over the next decade.

A White Marsh-to-Perry Hall circulating bus route, lower residential speed limits and the end of large developments are three of the major recommendations contained in a critical proposal the Perry Hall Improvement Association presented to residents last month.

And, much to the relief of several residents who attended the PHIA meeting, the proposed Perry Hall Community Plan calls for killing a controversial road extension. If approved by county officials by the end of the year, the blueprint will govern growth in Perry Hall for a decade.

One of the first statements in the plan says everything about its top priority: "This plan acknowledges that the period of large- scale development in Perry Hall is over."

During the plan's presentation, several Perry Hall residents—including community activist Brenda Ward—expressed support for its call to remove the Gunview Road extension from the county's master plan. For more than 20 years, the county's Department of Public Works has promoted extending the road from Seven Courts neighborhood to Belair Road, near Honeygo Boulevard. 

"It is time for the community to stop wondering if this unwanted project is going to be completed, after it having been on the books for over 20 years," said improvement association President Dennis Robinson. At the meeting he told residents that the association had recently testified against the extension before the Baltimore County Planning Board. 

The plan calls for devising strategies to reduce residents' dependence on cars, the main mode of transportation throughout the area.

"Like similar communities across the United States, Perry Hall residents are discovering the disadvantages of living in a low-density community as dependence on foreign oil, climate change, and obesity rates are major issues for today's generations," the report states.

To combat those trends, the draft plan calls for building more hiking trails, more sidewalks, lowering speed limits and creating a bus route called the Perry Hall circulator. The "circular" route between White Marsh and Perry Hall could help improve air quality and decrease traffic congestion by reducing "single occupancy vehicle trips." In other words, people driving to the mall by themselves could hop on the circulator bus.

"A proposed route would travel, from White Marsh Mall, north on Honeygo Boulevard; south on Belair Road; south on Silver Spring Road; south on Perry Hall Boulevard; and returning to the Mall," the recommendation reads.

The plan also calls for designing streets whose smaller sizes compel drivers to slow down and for posting 20 mph speed limits on those new streets.

The Perry Hall Community Plan process began in October 2009, when volunteers from throughout Perry Hall came together. At this initial meeting, staff members from Baltimore County's Office of Planning brainstormed with residents to determine what issues the plan should tackle. 

After formulating a vision statement for Perry Hall, participants then spent the next several months researching and analyzing individual areas of concern. Four sub-committees were established to focus on green infrastructure, neighborhoods and commerce, transportation and infrastructure, and public and cultural resources. 

Diane Brazil, chair of the green infrastructure subcommittee, said the process was "very informative and a nice opportunity for community members to get together and work for a common cause."

Donnell Ziegler, a planner from the Baltimore County Office of Planning, said the Perry Hall Community Plan must now be presented to the Baltimore County Planning Board for its consideration. If approved, the plan would then need the Baltimore County Council to adopt it. 

The process is expected to last through the end of the year.

"Plans of this sort are meant to be products of extensive community involvement and are meant to guide the development of an area for the next 10 years," Ziegler said.

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