Residents protest opening of access to community

Edelen Station residents liked dead-end road

Friday, Aug. 27, 2010

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Staff photo by EMILY BARNES
John Taylor, who has lived on Prince George's Street in La Plata for 70 years, points out where bollards used to block the dead-end street from motorists entering and exiting the Edelen Station condominium community.

John Taylor said he has lived on Prince George's Street in La Plata for 70 years and until just a few months ago the road was quiet and safe.

But the peace was broken during a storm in February when town snow removal crews knocked down one of two barriers that were placed there to block motorists from accessing the Edelen Station condominium community that sits at the end of the street. Since then folks who live in the community have been using the street to enter and exit the development, Taylor said.

"There's been a significant increase in traffic since the barriers have been removed," he said.

"It's absolutely unsafe. The road is too narrow and there are no sidewalks."

The developer placed the semi-permanent barriers there with the approval of the La Plata Town Council about five years ago, Taylor said, adding that the barriers could be lowered if fire, rescue or police personnel needed to enter the condo community for an emergency.

The area was noted on Edelen Station's development plans as an emergency access point only, Taylor said.

After the barriers were removed, Taylor said he filled two plastic trash cans with bricks and placed them at the end of the street to block traffic. Town road crews removed the bricks from the trash cans in August and the road is once again open to through traffic, he said.

The approved entrance to Edelen Station is on North Maple Street, he said.

Tom Fenner has lived on Prince George's Street since 2002. The once-quiet street has become dangerous because of the number of vehicles that travel along the narrow road, he said. At least a couple of times, residents were nearly struck by a speeding car when they attempted to back out of their driveways, he said.

"We had no traffic before," he said. "Now I can sit on my porch in the evening and see a half a dozen cars drive by within 10 minutes."

Fenner said he sent several e-mails to the La Plata Town Council, Mayor Roy Hale and Town Manager Daniel Mears about the issue. Mears responded to the e-mail Aug. 18, advising Fenner that the barriers will not be replaced and that residents "shall not obstruct the roadway."The town's updated comprehensive plan states that barriers like what were placed at the end of Prince George's Street should be removed to "improve connectivity and ease congestion," Mears noted in the e-mail.

Fenner said he voiced his concerns about the road remaining a dead-end street when development plans for Edelen Station were being reviewed by the La Plata Planning Commission and town council. He said the council assured him that the road would only be used for emergency entry into the community.

"The street is very narrow; two cars can barely get by at the same time," said Cindy Sheckells, who has lived on the street for four years. "A lot of people drive way too fast and we have small children in the neighborhood."

Ward 4 Councilman Joe Norris said he understands how the residents feel, but that the town is trying to make every community in town accessible to emergency personnel; neighborhoods need two access points to ensure police, fire and rescue units can easily enter an area.

"I'm sympathetic with what they're saying. I used to live on a dead-end street and it was nice, but we've been told that emergency personnel don't like it," he said. "It's not good to have a single entrance to a community."

Norris said that he drove down Prince George's Street in his pickup truck and asked a friend to drive down the opposite side of the road in his SUV to see if the road was too narrow for two vehicles to pass each other.

"It's not so. I went down there and tried it," he said, adding that he will alert the La Plata Police Department about motorists who are speeding down the street.

"I'm open to listening to the residents' concerns, but we've got to look at the big picture," he said. "We're trying to do what's right for the town overall. Things do change and sometimes it's not fair."

Fenner said residents who live on the road want barriers to be installed at the end of the street, adding that several of his neighbors are planning to attend the Aug. 31 council meeting to express concerns about the situation.

""We're not looking for anything more than what we were promised," he said. "It's a quality-of-life issue for people who live on the street."