Residents of Rodgers Forge, Stoneleigh and Anneslie rallied Friday afternoon at the location of a proposed Starbucks coffee shop in Towson to voice their objection to a drive-through planned for the shop.
The rally was organized by residents to express their concerns about additional traffic and pedestrian safety hazards they believe will accompany the drive-through, as well as what they consider a lack of public input on the project. The Starbucks, which is proposed to replace a former bank and office building at the corner of York Road and Regester Avenue, would have an entrance on York Road and an exit onto Regester.
Residents say they are concerned that cars exiting from the proposed drive-through window could become a danger to local students who pass the spot on their way to and from Dumbarton Middle School.
Pat Foretich, a member of the Rodgers Forge Community Association board of governors, said he is concerned about the increased traffic a drive-through might cause.
"I don't want to see a kid get killed over a cup of coffee," he added.
Another concern for the community is what the residents say was a lack of public notification and discussion about the proposal before county officials approved it.
Karen Oakjones-Burgess, of Rodgers Forge, who organized the rally, said she learned of the project a month and a half ago. Once she heard about it she got busy talking with her neighbors, elected officials, the county and Starbucks about her concerns, she said. She feels the location could be a great store for pedestrians but that the drive-through would present a hazard.
About 40 people attended the rally, raising signs with anti-drive through messages and talking to passing drivers about their concerns.
Baltimore County officials approved the project in April 2016, according to spokeswoman Lauren Watley. Watley said Dec. 9 that county officials have not yet received a building permit application for the address associated with the project.
The access to the property will essentially be the same as it was with the existing bank and office building on the site, Greg Carski, the county's Bureau Chief of Traffic Engineering and Transportation Planning said in an email provided by Watley. The bank and office building would be torn down under the proposal.
According to a design plan submitted to the county by Morris & Ritchie Associates, a Towson-based architecture and engineering firm, dated Oct. 24 the proposed drive through would wrap around three sides of a 1,562-square-foot coffee shop. The plan also shows that the shop would have 25 parking spaces.
Residents also voiced frustration that neither the county nor the State Highway Administration conducted a traffic study for the project.
The proposed Starbucks is located on a state road and therefore is controlled and maintained by the SHA, Watley said. "The SHA, which is the reviewing authority for the state, did not require a traffic study for this project," she added.
The SHA did not require a permit for the project because it would not encroach on York Road, SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar said.
Rodgers Forge Community Association Board of Governors President Kris Henry said the association has commissioned its own traffic study to be completed at a cost of $4,500. The Anneslie Community Association and the Stoneleigh Community Association chipped in a combined $2,000, Henry said, while Rodgers Forge is contributing $2,500. That study will be conducted next week, Henry said, declining to say what private engineering firm would complete the work.
Carski said in an email that county officials don't anticipate that the proposed Starbucks will dramatically change the quality of the intersection. Every three to four years the traffic department observes the intersection and grades it. Mostly recently it earned a "B," Carski said, meaning "the signalized intersection is operating very efficiently and almost no cars have to sit through an entire signal cycle to clear the intersection."
His department will continue to monitor the intersection to determine if changes are needed, he said.
Starbucks officials did not respond to a message left on the company's media line seeking comment.