Tiki Fight: Making Your Business Mine

Last Sunday my wife brought to my attention a letter that was delivered by a representative of the Solomons Civic Association, ostensibly "a nonpartisan, nonpolitical, nonprofit, and nonsectarian organization dedicated to stimulating interest in, and promoting the general welfare of the Solomons Area."

I am a resident of the Solomons Town Center in Calvert County, Maryland, most notable for the touristy Solomons Island, which is home to various bars, restaurants, and antique shops.

Perhaps the most popular bar on the island is the infamous Tiki Bar. While many businesses on Solomons Island operate year-round, it is the seasonal Tiki Bar's annual re-opening on the third weekend in April that effectively symbolizes the return of summer and draws thousands of locals and tourists to the area for a rare weekend of eating, drinking, and overall celebration in our otherwise relatively low-key nook in the universe.

The letter, which came to our attention after a neighbor quite unbelievably had the audacity to enter our driveway and open my wife's car door to place it on the seat, encourages Solomons residents to oppose a proposal to expand the Tiki Bar by about 15,000 square feet (currently the zoning regulations allow the bar to be approximately 1600 sq. ft.). At a public hearing on Feb. 15 at 9 a.m., Helen and Richard Bauer plan to argue that the Tiki Bar's owners should not be allowed to expand because it would alter traffic patterns on the island, and the primary access road to the bar would become Maltby Street, the alley beside the Bauers' house.

The Bauers, who are supported by the Solomons Civic Association, claim that the Solomons Master Plan states that "the westerly portion of Maltby Street shown on land maps but not currently being used should be officially abandoned to protect the residential area," and that "Maltby Street shall not be used as an access road for any additional commercial development on this property." This Solomons zoning law has apparently been in effect since 1986.

Solomons Island historically has been a fishing and boating community, primarily defined over the years by its commercial makeup and tourist appeal. However, there are also private residences on the island, inhabited by some people who are very uncomfortable with the rather rapid growth of Southern Maryland. The Patuxent River Naval Air Station has thrived over the years, and because of its attractiveness to private contractors, both St. Mary's and Calvert counties have seen a significant influx of permanent residents and a multitude of other businesses. As someone who hails from a steadily dying semi-rural area in Western New York, I consider this population growth and accompanying economic stability to be a very good thing.

At the same time, I realize there are many inhabitants of the area (many of whom are in their golden years) who are used to their rural, tranquil lifestyle and resent the addition of so many young professionals and "outsiders" who haven't lived in Southern Maryland for decades and who may not share their parochial values, whatever those happen to be.

I cannot endorse such sentiment, however. After all, how can anyone live anywhere and be opposed to the concept of growth? Indeed, each of us contributes one human unit to the growth of a particular area the very moment we choose to settle there. To believe that one should be entitled to live somewhere while another should not is the very essence of elitism and bigotry.

I spoke with Gladys Bowers of the Solomons Civic Association, and she made it clear that

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