Officials getting to the Point
EASTON — Representatives from the Town of Easton, Talbot County and the State of Maryland gathered for a preliminary meeting Aug. 28 at the Easton town hall to further discuss the Easton Point area.
Easton Mayor Bob Willey led the meeting with a presentation outlining the project’s progress so far and the related resolutions that have been passed by the town council and the planning commission.
Easton Point Park began in the planning stages in 2012 with many community organizations, including the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and Town Creek Foundation. At the time, this project was several years out and involved properties along the waterfront by the soon-to-be complete Tred Avon pedestrian bridge, a Rails to Trails project on the former Baltimore Chesapeake and Atlantic Railroad Line.
“Through its redevelopment, Port Street will become a desirable destination and water gateway into the Town, with diverse uses including cultural, housing, open spaces, walkability, recreation, restaurants and retail,” according to the project executive summary of the Port Street Small Area Plan.
Willey said the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Maryland Department of the Environment have done repeated inspections of the town property.
“The property is safe for construction,” he said. “The Town of Easton has submitted a DNR Parks and Playground application for grant funding, about $200,000 for the Easton Point Park.”
Willey also mentioned the idea of a new traffic light for the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and state Route 322. The State Highway Administration is redesigning this intersection to include left turn lanes and the open access needed for the Rails to Trails project.
As this is the only intersection on the parkway without a traffic signal, the town has requested that a traffic signal with pedestrian crossing be included in this design, for both school and pedestrian safety.
Willey said the town still needs to annex land from the county; the most recent annexation brought about 6 acres of land into Easton.
With annexation and the plans to create a larger waterfront Easton Point Park, another variable is the relocation of surrounding businesses to suitable sites somewhere close by, Willey said.
He said there was no hesitation in that regard, as the businesses have two to three years before uprooting and relocating. The town has begun early discussions with those businesses. The mayor is looking to state delegates and federal representatives to assist with funding.
The next steps involve drafting a timeline, as requested by Sen. Addie Eckardt, R-37-Mid-Shore, as the project still is in its early preliminary stages.
Another subject of discussion was the planning commission’s efforts in reducing the density of Easton Point.
The Mixed Use Waterfront Zoning District created for this Easton Point area is divided into four sub-districts. The water’s edge, the first 100 feet from the water, is restrictive in what can be built, and beyond that, the sub-districts become less restrictive moving inland. The planning commission has developed lower densities permitted in these sub-districts ranging from 12 to 30 dwelling units per acre, Town Manager Don Richardson said.
County Councilwoman Laura Price said adding retail to the waterfront would pull away from Easton’s downtown shopping centers and townhouses would result in Easton Point being too dense.
Price said she would prefer to leave the landing as is and beautify the area.
“To have every citizen in Talbot County come down there and not have to spend a bunch of money, but just come down there with a picnic lunch and look at that view … It is the best view in Talbot County,” Price said.
She said she hopes for a park similar to those in Oxford and St. Michaels.
County Councilman Dirck Bartlett warned against a “Red Eye Dock Bar” type atmosphere, fearing it would take away from what is intended to be family-friendly destination.
“I think you have to be careful how it unfolds,” Bartlett said. “It has to stay limited in size.”