Interview with Easton’s Council President Megan Cook

Megan Cook is Easton’s Council President, a position she’s held for approximately a year and a half. We spoke to her about issues on the minds of people who live and/or work in Easton.

 

EEDC:  You’ve been on the council for the past 12 years. What are some of the accomplishments that stand out for you, that you’re most proud of?

 

Megan Cook (MC): For one, ushering and being an advocate for community projects. Anything park-related is the other thing that’s near and dear to my heart. And one of my long-term projects that’s finally gaining steam is Easton Point Park. We’ve been working on that for probably a good ten years, and we’re really seeing some results happening with the extension of the bike path, the bridge, and all the work that’s happening there. It’s going to be a fabulous waterfront park for the community.

 

EEDC: One thing we hear a lot about is concern about what’s happening on Route 50. Can you talk about that?

 

MC: Traffic around Route 50 is a significant concern. With all the new construction potentially happening on the east side of 50, this is especially impacting those families that we have living there. That’s kind of the natural growth area with all the new construction like Estate at Gannon Farms off Matthewstown Road and Elliott Road apartments. So it’s a difficult situation already, that’s going to be even more difficult with all the added cars. It’s something that is on our radar. We’re going to be meeting with State Highway and working with them, especially on some intersections that may be problematic, and concentrating on making some intersections more pedestrian-friendly, by adding some sidewalks.

 

EEDC:  Since we’re on the subject, there is also talk about the ‘beautification’ of Route 50.

 

MC: We’ve been working on that. It’s a project that started maybe a year or two before COVID, and then it kind of shut down after COVID.

 

EEDC: Another issue on the mind of your constituents is housing affordability. 

 

MC: A lot is happening right now in terms of development, two of which I already mentioned. There’s also Poplar Hill Farm, and we’ve got some with BAAM. My biggest concern with all this development is affordability, making sure that the wonderful people who work in town should live in town if they want. We have to make sure that some of our houses remain affordable, even as the market rate for homes continues to go up. We have a lot that attracts people to Easton, which is great, but we have to make sure that the families that work here can live and raise their kids here.

 

So with each development, we’re looking to make sure that there’s an affordability piece with it. For example, with Estates at Gannon, prices are looking to be around $360,000 to $410,000, and that’s significant. We’re still working with Gannon on that.

 

EEDC: Any worry about losing that small-town feeling?

 

MC: Yes, and no. We do have a growth boundary around us, and we do have a green belt (EEDC NOTE: the green belt is a land-use zone designation used in land use planning to retain areas of largely undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land surrounding or neighboring urban areas). This gets back to affordability — we have limited space for growth, so we have to make sure that we keep some of that area affordable for our families. But I think with our downtown and all the other things that attract families here, we’ll always keep that small-town feeling.

 

We’ve been a regional destination for shopping for a long time. We have Target and that complex as one area of the community. We have our downtown, which is another area. The whole east end is growing out, and we have walkable neighborhoods. Those are the pieces that come together to help us keep that small-town feel and a great place to live and raise a family.

 

EEDC: What’s else is on your plate? What are your priorities for the upcoming year?

 

MC: A lot is happening, and again, it goes back to the developments. We haven’t seen this much housing development in the town of Easton for a long time, probably not since Eastern Club East. So that’s a definite priority.

 

We’re just entering the budget season and have the town budget coming up. We have a lot of amenities for families: we’ve got a great public works division, great parks, our police department, etc., and we need to make sure that we have enough staff and a level of service to keep our families safe and happy. We have to make sure our budgets cover all of these essential services.

 

We also have a dog park in the works. The group went through parks and rec, they come to the council, and have a space for the dog park (located at Brewers Lane, across from the farmer’s market). They’re now waiting for Midshore Community Foundation to set up an account for their fundraising efforts to get it built. I think it’s going to be a great addition to downtown.

 

EEDC: There’s also the town’s comprehensive plan, right?

 

MC: That’s a project that will take a whole year, and Lynn Thomas (Easton’s Town Planner) does a great job with that. The great thing is that there are a lot of opportunities for the community to get involved.

 

I recommend that people go to the town website (https://eastonmd.gov/564/2023-Comprehensive-Plan-Update), learn more about the plan, and fill out the survey. They can keep in touch with the community meetings, which will be held in every ward. I ask that everyone please come out, share their views and concerns because those are the things that go into making this comp plan. That will become the playbook, the roadmap we use for the next decade.

 

EEDC: Anything else you want to talk about that we haven’t discussed? Any challenges?

 

MC: There are always challenges in everything. And how I like to do things is just talk it out and get ideas on the table, especially with the council. We’re five individuals with five different backgrounds with five different views, and that’s what you want. We all look at the issue from a different perspective. And together, our questions, concerns, and comments help mold projects and make them a little better. I think that’s one of our strengths.

 

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