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Celebrating Representative Government

Fireworks, parades and vocal citizens are all part of the tradition

Two hundred thirty-six years ago, America made itself a nation with a formal Declaration of Independence. The plan for what this new nation would be, our Constitution, took 11 disputeful years more.
    The places we live have had less help in taking shape. Like Topsy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, our communities “just growed. Don’t think nobody never made me.”
    In the three decades I’ve been looking, Annapolis and Anne Arundel and Calvert counties are transformed places. The counties’ change is less obvious as their larger spread makes development less noticeable — though no less consequential. Annapolis is way different.
    Katie Dodd was back home in Annapolis for Christmas break in her sophomore year at Boston College when she said farewell to Market House — where she’d shopped and worked through her years at St. Mary’s High School — in her first story for Bay Weekly. That was 2004.
    Returning over the years from Boston, Australia and London, she’s seen that familiar place travel a bumpy road from bad to worse to hopeful.
    Back last week from Sweden, where she’s lived for two years with fiancé Niklas Syk, she saw change — perhaps progress? — marching through her hometown.
    “I can’t even remember what used to be there,” she said of the Spa Road entrance to Maryland Hall, where Spa Gate — no relationship to Watergate, Contragate or Iraqgate — is adding 19 town houses to what its marketer, the Hogan Companies, calls “a recently revitalized West Street corridor that features the Park Place condominium, office and retail amenities, Level, the Metropolitan, Tsunami and Carpaccio.”
    The gate in Spa Gate refers to Westgate Circle, the West Street, Spa Road and Taylor Boulevard rotary we now take for granted. I’d forgotten it wasn’t always there until I came on our old file photos of its construction.
    Do you remember that old intersection? Or what was before Park Place? Or when Anne Arundel Medical Center stood between downtown and Spa Creek, instead of out west? When Westfield Annapolis Mall was smaller — or not at all? All the years Annapolis Towne Centre at Parole’s big intersection stood empty? When Harbour Center wasn’t?
    When Edgewater was a small town?
    When all of Calvert County had one stoplight?
    When North Beach was a low-rise community?
    All the years between waterparks and hotels in Chesapeake Beach?
    Once a building, or a neighborhood, falls, it’s quickly forgotten. The replacements — both land use and buildings — last a long time. The bigger the change, the longer their imprint lasts.
    I remember that every day as I pass the empty old Giant on Solomons Island Road in Edgewater and the empty old Gold’s Gym, once upon a time the appliance store whose name I’ve forgotten, on West Street at Glen Avenue.
    Change never stops, and a lot more is in the making.
    Someday sooner than later, Bay Weekly’s last office at 1629 Forest Drive will fall to bulldozers creating Crystal Springs — a planned, mixed-use, senior-dominated community of some 500 homes on 110 mostly wooded acres.
    A bit farther east, The Reserve at Quiet Waters will add more than 150 homes to the verge of both Quiet Waters Park and Forest Drive.
    How many more cars do you think will be driving on Forest Drive?
    Both these developments will very likely happen, and the property owners and developers will profit enormously. But because citizens of the larger community demand a voice, these changes will be made with thought for the shared values of the commonweal.
    Citizens are pushing the city and developers hard to preserve up to 60 percent of the forest for which the road there is named.
    Downtown in our capital city, the future of not just Market House but the whole of City Dock is in the making, and citizens are begged to help. Can you imagine what that best use might be? At a public hearing on June 28, you can share thoughts and inspiration (www.ci.annapolis.md.us).
    Celebration of Independence Day is our feature in this week’s paper. You’ll also find a pair of small stories on the ways change sneaks up on us. One is on where new communities on septic systems may be developed. Calvert County is the focus in this story, but all our counties in the Bay watershed will be affected by the new state law on the subject, the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012.
    The second story, an environmental report card on Anne Arundel County leaders, should remind us that elected leaders will listen — if we citizens tell them what we want for our interdependent communities.
    Speak up. It’s our representative government we’re celebrating this week.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com