Photo: Meadowlake resident Sondra Malone speaks against a trail being built on the Maryland Farms Greenway.
By LANDON WOODROOF
On one side you have people who envision a new trail running through the Maryland Farms Greenway as a boon to bike and pedestrian connectivity. On the other side are residents who feel a trail running just behind their backyards would negatively impact their privacy and constitute a threat to community safety.
Some residents see the trail providing an easy way for residents on Brentwood’s west side to enjoy unmotorized access to the city’s commercial center and for students to be able to bike to school. Others, however, think the greenway should continue to serve the purpose it has had for many years, as a buffer zone separating a residential area from the commercial activity of Maryland Way.
The City Commission heard both points of view at public hearing Monday for a rezoning ordinance to permit a trail on the 20-acre greenway, which runs roughly parallel to Virginia Way alongside the Meadowlake subdivision.
“I would love it if we could come up with a win-win solution and have this trail,” Meadowlake resident Taj Wolff said on Monday night. “Right now the greenway is kind of useless to us. It’s just there. It’s overgrown and people can’t use it.”
Wolff, whose yard backs up to the greenway, suggested a new trail on the greenway could give nearby students a new route to bike to get to school.
“My kids are grown, so they’re not going to get to walk or bike to school, but there are a lot of young kids in our neighborhood who could benefit from that,” she said.
That view was shared by Richard Hunter, a Meadowlake resident who also served on the city’s Ad-Hoc Bike and Pedestrian Committee, which recommended a trail on the greenway as part of its final report issued last year. Hunter is also a leader in the local organization, Bike Walk Brentwood.
“We really want to get our kids out biking and walking to school and do that in a safe way,” he said.
In response to other residents’ privacy concerns, Hunter noted that people are free to access the greenway as it is.
“Today the fact is that land is public land,” he said. “People can be back on that land legally. They can be right next to my neighbors’ fences.”
He said it was his hope that having an organized, well-used trail in the greenway would if anything increase vigilance and decrease the chances of criminal activity.
Hunter said he understood the concerns of some residents whose yards back up to the greenway. He said he hopes a solution can be worked on to maintain their privacy.
“I understand this issue, and if I were in his position I would want real concern to be taken to make sure I could enjoy my backyard and not observe people running across from my bathroom window,” he said.
That roughly describes some of the main qualms other Meadowlake residents expressed on Monday night related to both privacy and safety.
“I don’t know how many of you want strangers in hotels walking to restaurants where they can drink, could have gun permits, and then walking back late at night where they can literally see into your windows or walk into your driveway,” Sondra Malone said.
The city has argued other trails in town near residential areas have not proven to be vectors of crime, but this argument did not satisfy Malone. She said none of those other trails have been right next to commercial areas.
“I would really like for the commissioners to take that into consideration,” she said. “Think about if you would want people from hotels walking in the back of your home, and really help the residents of Brentwood instead of the people who just come and go.”
Lee Luton has lived in Brentwood for 25 years and, during that time, has enjoyed peaceful views of the greenway from his back patio in Meadowlake. He sees a trail as a threat to that solace.
Echoing comments made by another citizen opposed to the trail, Leonard Kindig, Jr., Luton said it was his understanding the greenway would always serve as a buffer zone between Meadowlake and Maryland Farms. He urged commissioners to give greater consideration to the views of those whose homes would be most directly impacted by the trail.
He said it was easy for others to lend support to the trail, since it was not necessarily in their backyards.
“It’s in my backyard, it’s in these other folks backyards,” he said, referring to Malone and Kindig. “Please consider that and please understand our position.”
Devin McClendon is one of those residents from other parts of town who came to speak in favor of the trail. Like Hunter, McClendon is a part of the Bike Walk Brentwood group.
McClendon grew up in Brentwood and said in his youth he enjoyed strolling down Maryland Way, which at that time he described as a potholed, gravel road, to the city’s commercial core. The city’s increased development, though, has made it much more difficult for residents on the west side of town to walk or bike to businesses along Franklin Road.
“It is critical in our wonderful, suburban city where we enjoy our big lots and our privacy, it’s also good to allow us good opportunities to get around in ways other than our cars,” he said.
The rezoning ordinance related to the Maryland Farms Greenway was previously passed on first reading by the City Commission in September. It also gained the recommendation of the Planning Commission earlier this month. The City Commission will consider it on a second and final reading at its Oct. 26 meeting.