(To hear a radio version of this story, click here, or listen at 9:36 a.m. today to WYPR 88.1 FM in Baltimore, WYPF 88.1 FM in Frederick and the Washington suburbs, or WYPO 106.9 on Maryland's Eastern Shore.)
Standing beside the street in the Southern Maryland community of Waldorf, it’s hard to tell if you’re in a town or some kind of universal no-man’s land between Denny’s and McDonalds.
This is the commercial heart of Charles County, and there are bank branches here, a Home Depot, Nissan car dealership--but no homes anywhere to be seen. And no trees or sidewalks or even any way to cross the street to get your Lumberjack Slam breakfast at Denny’s without a car.
“This is not pedestrian friendly, and it’s not bicycle friendly. It’s not a community street,” said Joe Tieger, a retired U.S. Environmental Protection Agency official who is now an activist in a group called the Smarter Growth Alliance of Charles County.
He’s among those trying to push the county – and the state of Maryland – to re-think this kind of suburban sprawl. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Smarter Growth Alliance, and several other conservation, housing and faith-based groups are backing legislation in the Maryland General Assembly to strengthen a toothless anti-sprawl law passed in 1997 called the Smart Growth Act.