Monday, August 13, 2007

Laurel Lakes Townhouse Fire

WUSA-TV Channel 9's Dave Statter has video and still pictures from Sunday's terrible fire in Laurel Lakes.

Laurel's Lamplighters

Former Laurel Mayor and local historian Joe Robison responded to my previous post with the following story about lamplighters.

Joe explained that he was reading the Laurel City Council meeting minutes from the 1880's and he learned that care of gas street lamps was the responsibility of the nearest property owner. Joe learned that the nearest owner was required to light the gas lamp at dusk and douse it at sunrise. If an unreliable owner failed to do this, the street lamp would be physically moved to be in front of a more responsible property owner.

Many readers liked the idea of a street lamp celebration. Ice cream, band music, and someone in a lamplighter costume to officiate. Sounds like a great time and a fitting celebration for all the hard work from the Mayor, City Council and the Public Works Department. I hope the Laurel Board of Trade and the Friends of Historic Main Street will take up the idea and sponsor it. Does anyone know a local Barbershop Quartet?

From the reliable source, rumor file - I've learned from that a bakery may be coming to Laurel in the near future. It might not be on Main Street, but if they have sticky buns and sourdough, I just won't care.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Six Things

Six things I'm thinking about on a relaxing Sunday evening stroll.

1. The great new street lamps have now been installed on the west end of Main Street from 4th to 7th. The picture on the right is near the Red, Hot and Blue Restaurant. I heard that Public Works Department is almost ready to turn them on. I suggest we do it right and have a lamp lighting celebration.

2. We need an honest to goodness bakery on Main Street. Artisan breads, fresh hard rolls, and sticky cinnamon buns are my favorites. I'd easily spend $20 dollars a week!

3. I hope you are following the comments section to the recent post about Laurel's Urban or Suburban Future. Bryon and Keith are sharing some thought provoking thoughts.

4. I hope you took a minute to vote in the poll on the left. It looks like Bethesda is tied with Mayberry as the preferred look for Laurel's future.

5. There are dark, budget busting clouds over Annapolis. The Mayor and City Council were wise to beef up Laurel's infrastructure during the last few years. I have a hunch that the budget salad days will soon be over for any state or county funding.

6. Speaking of salad ... I think it is time for a year-round, fresh produce business on Main Street that is open in the evenings and weekends. The Farmer's Market is good, but we need a business that caters to people that work during the day. Maybe the produce stand out on Gunpowder Road is looking for a new home. The thousands of young, wealthy, upwardly mobile, residents moving into all our new luxury apartment buildings will certainly want fresh fruits and vegetables. (and fresh bread too!)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

102 Posts

The Laurel Connections Blog was born 102 posts ago on February 13th, 2005. A bit of a landmark for me so I wanted to take a brief moment to thank all of you loyal readers. Your continuing visits here and your comments to me privately and publicly on the blog have made this little experiment in citizen journalism satisfying for me and I hope useful for you.

Since that first post in 2005, this blog has hosted over 11,746 visitors and 21,521 page views. My goal has been and remains to find post topics that are relevant to Laurel and that help make an already wonderful community just a tiny bit better. I also hope that you have found a little value and maybe a smile or two over the past 30 months.

I intend to continue the experiment. I hope to add new voices and guest bloggers. I'll also be adding more podcasts and introducing video and real-time interactive call-in technology to the blog in the future. See the neat new poll gadget that Blogger just introduced on the left column of this page. Internet production and delivery has matured so fast that I can't help but mix multimedia with citizen journalism just to see what happens.

Please let me know what works, what doesn't and what you would like to see, hear or read here the future. Please use the comments section or email to me: g dot rick dot wilson at gmail dot com. You'll need to replace the"dot" and "at" with "." and "@" and then moosh it all together.
Thanks again for visiting. - rick

Monday, August 06, 2007

Your Turn

Have you been following our recent development discussions? Would you like to know more about redevelopment, density, parking, traffic, or creating a more walkable Laurel? Do you have an opinion about the future of Laurel?

The City of Laurel Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the City’s proposed 2007 Master Plan in the Council Chambers of the Laurel Municipal Center next Tuesday, August 14th at 7:00 p.m.

It's your turn to speak out. Serious policy wonks will want to prepare by reading the entire 200+ page Master Plan here in Adobe Acrobat format.

I also want to draw your attention to Laurel2020's interesting article about a more walkable Laurel here.

What do you want? In 2020, Route 1 through Laurel should look like: a) Bethesda, b) Silver Spring, c) Mayberry, or d) the way it is today? Please share your opinions in the comments section.

Full disclosure: I served on the committee that produced the 2007 plan.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Laurel 2015: Urban or Suburban

The following article is also available in our enhanced Laurel Connections Podcast format. My thanks to Karen Lubieniecki , Marlene Frazier, Councilman Mike Leszcz, Jim McCeney, and Michael Dyer for participating in our podcast.

There was a meeting tonight at city hall to discuss a new development called Hawthorne Place. Please see the Leader’s excellent coverage of Hawthorne Place here.

update: Please also see Keith's take on the meeting at the Laurel2020 blog here.

Tonight’s meeting was typical in many ways. About twenty people attended. The group included bedrock members of the Laurel community. They listened as developers described their dream for Hawthorne Place. The community listened carefully and asked polite questions.

But in many ways I think the tonight’s meeting was far from typical. I think we will remember tonight as an important moment in the history of Laurel.

I say this because I think Hawthorne Place represents the first step towards a new Laurel. The profound question our community must answer is as follows:

In 2015 will Laurel’s commercial core be primarily suburban or urban?

Today Laurel is a suburban town with a suburban feel. We have Main Street and a commercial core along Route 1. Route 1 has a handful of commercial strip shopping centers, a mall undergoing massive revitalization, big box retail stores, and a couple of car lots. Today Laurel is very much like thousands of other suburban towns across America.

Silver Spring, Bethesda, Rockville are examples of town centers with a more urban feel. They have more intense development, high rise buildings, and parking garages. While not Washington’s K Street, or Manhattan’s East side, Hawthorne Place has more in common with them than with say … Columbia or Bowie, or Laurel as it is today.

Hawthorne Place will bring about 2000 residents and 150 thousand square feet of office space and plant it all on 11 acres. It will obviously bring traffic, but also an awesome new tax base to fuel the city.

Most importantly, Hawthorne Place will cause similar development. You can bet that if Hawthorne Place is approved as explained tonight, the market will drive Laurel to a more urban development pattern in the future.

The questions at tonight's meeting reflected these concerns. People asked the developers about the density stemming from 20 and 16 story apartment buildings.

While people seemed to focus on traffic and building height, I think the real debate is about coming to a community agreement on a vision for Laurel’s future. Will Laurel remain suburban or should we become more urban?

This is an important moment in Laurel’s history. We must continue this conversation. However, I suggest we focus our conversation on the fundamental question of wanting a suburban or urban feel in Laurel's commercial core. Building heights, density, or traffic at Hawthorne Place are all leading indicators of a more profound decision. I suggest we look past these specific decisions about the Hawthorne Place project to focus more broadly on Laurel’s future.

Please share your comments about Hawthorne Place and the future here.

Click here to hear voices from tonight’s meeting. I’m also looking for feedback on the podcast format. Please let me know if you find it useful. -rick