Area residents voiced their objections Jan. 27 to a plan that would add nearly 17,00 square feet of retail and office space near downtown Arbutus during a meeting about the proposal.
The plan calls for the development of 2 acres near the intersection of Sulphur Spring Road and Benson Avenue on Old Sulphur Spring Road, a narrow, wooded side street.
During the meeting at the Dewey Lowman American Legion Post on Old Sulphur Spring Road, Stephen Whalen Jr., managing partner of Whalen Properties, described his company's plans to build a two-story, 10,000-square-foot office and retail building and a 6,800-square-foot restaurant on the property.
While most of the site is undeveloped, there are several residences on Arbutus Avenue, less than a block away.
"The residents that are close by don't want their neighborhood to be disturbed. That's the overall feeling I got," said Carol Mox, president of the Halethorpe Improvement Association, the day after the meeting.
Mox said her group has not taken official position on the proposal yet.
Nikki Marlatt-Young, president of the Arbutus Improvement Association, organized the meeting.
She said getting residents together with Whalen was an opportunity for the community to respond to the proposed changes and is glad everyone had a chance to voice their opinions.
"Our little small town is known for pizza and beer. That's all we have is pizza parlors and bars. And I think some of the residents are just content with what we have now," said Nikki Marlatt-Young a day after the meeting.
Concerns ranged from a potential increase in traffic to improper use of the Class B liquor license that Whalen purchased for the restaurant.
"They're trying to hold on to it and they're feeling a little afraid that it's going to be another Walmart coming in and just destroying what little they have left," Marlatt-Young said of the community's response.
Whalen, however, feels the two new buildings will give Arbutus just the boost it needs.
"We're going to spend about $4.5 million and I think that's a real economic boost to the Arbutus business district," Whalen said.
In response to concerns that the new office and retail space will either be left vacant or draw attention away from existing businesses, Whalen said that the new competition will instead inspire those existing businesses to improve and therefore generate more revenue for everyone.
"We all perform better when we know that somebody's behind us and maybe chasing us a little," Whalen said.
Marlatt-Young said that she was pleased that Whalen said he believed in Arbutus enough to invest in it.
This story has been updated.