- The Washington Times - Monday, December 16, 2002

VIENNA, Md. (AP) Like many waterfront Eastern Shore towns, this Dorchester County hamlet is banking on its riverfront location as it maps out its future.
After six months of discussions, town officials and residents are reaching a consensus on how to manage growth using a plan that relies on tourism and the town's natural beauty.
They're trying to walk a fine line. Residents say that they want to retain the small-town feel, but added that they also want to attract more visitors. They don't, however, want to over-commercialize or devote themselves too much to tourists, like St. Michaels.
"We recognize that Vienna is going to grow. The question is how can we prepare for growth and preserve what is unique here," Mayor Russell Brinsfield said at a town meeting this week.
Vienna's long-term growth strategy was devised based on surveys conducted by an outside consultant and community input at town meetings.
Establishing a vision for Vienna is crucial if the town hopes to preserve its unique character as the area grows, said consultant Edward McMahon of the Conservation Fund.
"Vienna doesn't exist in a vacuum the best way to plan for the future is to create it yourself. No place will stay special by accident," Mr. McMahon said.
Among the considerations:
Limiting residential and commercial growth to targeted areas.
Requiring diversity in housing types, including affordable and senior residential development surrounded by greenways.
Establishing a discovery center or visitor center, town hall and outdoor recreational facilities.
Incorporating the western part of town into the rest of Vienna.
Preserving surrounding open space and establishing a network of trails for hikers and bikers.
To prevent suburban sprawl, the Vienna Town Council will have to adjust its zoning code so that it will be compatible with the community's growth strategy, Mr. Brinsfield said.
The area also may need a more stringent rental code, he added.
Mr. McMahon says the waterfront area is the town's most valuable asset, offering a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities, such as bird watching and canoeing. In the short term, the town is considering adding boat docks and access points to the waterfront, as well as street lights and sidewalk designs and gateway signs at town entrance points.
But residents say that they don't want it become too urban, as in the case of nearby Salisbury, or too touristy.
"My concern, what I wouldn't want to see, is for Vienna to generate or degenerate into St. Michaels. From a livability standpoint, that is not my idea of where we want to go," said John Brinsfield, a farmer who lives on the outskirts of Vienna and is the cousin of the mayor. "It's going to be a balancing act."
The town's five-year comprehensive plan is expected to be completed by summer.
State law requires that municipalities generate a comprehensive development plan every five years.

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