Plans to raze vacant bank in Wilkens Beltway Plaza for gas station to have limited public input

Despite concerns that a project to raze a building and replace it with a gas station would not receive community input, the community will still get its say, according to the shopping center owners.

Kimco Realty, the owner of Wilkens Beltway Plaza, presented a plan on June 19 to the Baltimore County Development Review Committee to knock down the former Carrollton Bank building and replace it with a gas station at the intersection of Wilkens Avenue and Maiden Choice Lane.

Though the meeting was open, comment from the public was not allowed.

Marilyn Maitland, the president of the Kensington Improvement Association, was the only spectator at the meeting.

At the meeting, the committee gave New York-based Kimco Realty a green light to refine a plan that had been previously approved.

Greg Reed, an assistant director of acquisitions and development for Kimco Realty, said he expects to have the plan approved by the county's Department of Public Works and Environmental Protection and Sustainability within three to four months.

Construction of the station, which would have eight fueling areas, would take another three to four months.

"Unfortunately, that puts us building in the winter, which is never the best scenario," Reed said. "The goal is to open this year."

At the meeting, Reed said Kimco Realty has had little luck leasing the building in the shopping center since the Carrollton Bank closed in August 2009.

He cited the building's lack of visibility even though it's close to a Giant supermarket.

The completed gas station would run under the Giant brand, and its hours would match those of the supermarket, Reed added.

"This is very important to Giant. Giant's my anchor for that center," Reed said the day after the county's review. "It's what makes that center thrive."

Jamie Miller, a spokesman for Giant, said the supermarket has seen "significant demand" for its gas rewards program in Arbutus and everywhere else that it has stores.

The proposed 3,000-square-foot gas station would be three times larger than the existing building.

Reed said any traffic concerns would likely be confined to the shopping center.

"If you look at this site, it's contained within our parking lot," Reed said. "If there's an impact of overcrowding, which I don't think there will be, it's going to impact our center. It's not going to back-track (on to) the road fronts."

Maitland said she attended the meeting "in a neutral listening mode" but noted many of the residents she had spoken with had concerns about the environmental impact of the project.

Reed said Kimco Realty was working to set up a time to meet with the association.

"We'll try to incorporate any of their concerns and address any of the concerns they have," Reed said.

A representative from the county's Department of Permits and Development Management said this particular project did not require a public input meeting because it did not require a zoning change.

If, for example, a developer planned to develop a residence in an area zoned for commercial use, that would need to have a public input meeting.

Councilman Tom Quirk, who represents the 1st District, which includes Arbutus, said his preference is to include public input whenever possible.

"Everything major should have public input," Quirk said. "Anything that brings a lot of community concern or community objection would be nice to have public input. The more transparent, the better."

Two shoppers at the Giant on June 20 said they had no idea that there were plans to construct a gas station on the site.

"I don't really care, one way or the other," said Frances Schneider, a 35-year resident of Arbutus, as she loaded groceries into her car.

Schneider said she would fuel her car at the station if it had the lowest prices.

Durry Lincalis observed that the area already had enough gas stations.

When asked if she would gas up there, the 20-year Arbutus resident said, "If it was the cheapest gas around, sure."

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