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Three years later, Arbutus Station project can proceed with design changes

Baltimore County officials have given approval for Whalen Properties to proceed with a modified plan to develop Arbutus Station, which was initially set to open in summer 2016.

The Arbutus Station project, near the intersection of Sulphur Spring Road and Waelchli Avenue, is set to have three floors, each of just about 10,000 square feet, with all three floors above grade. The plan includes a restaurant space.

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The original plan for Arbutus Station called for a two-story building, partially below grade, that would have retail on the bottom floor and office space on the second floor. The new plan adds the third floor, which also will be designated for office space. The restaurant space could be as large as 7,600 square feet. Developers currently plan to have 165 parking spaces.

The property also has one liquor license associated with it, which can be used by one establishment.

Developers said no tenants currently are lined up because of the delays in starting construction. The delay, developers said, resulted from some “title issues" with the property that were settled out of court. Steve Whalen, of Whalen Properties, declined to disclose the terms or amount of the settlement.

The numbers for the original plan “just didn’t work” because of the time and capital lost while litigating the settlement, Whalen said.

A county Development Review Committee, made up of experts from different agencies including environmental and planning and zoning, approved Whalen Properties’ refined development plan on Aug. 20. According to Jan Cook, a development manager with the county, that means the developers will now submit plans to the county agencies, which will review them and work with the developers to address any concerns.

The developers will not be required to have any more design or development meetings or hold other public hearings, Cook said.

However, after Mike McAuliffe, president of the Halethorpe Improvement Association, said the community views the third floor as more than a “refinement” and, in fact, a big change from the original plan the community supported in 2016, Whalen agreed to hold a community meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. in Arbutus Town Hall, to discuss the project.

“This is, I think, a drastic alteration from what was presented” three years ago, McAuliffe said. He added that while he was not opposed to major development, “something modest would be positive.”

Whalen said he was willing to meet with the community and apologized for not realizing folks would be so concerned about the revised plan.

Bettina Tebo, president of the Greater Arbutus Business Association, said she was glad to see the project proceeding and helped facilitate the planning of the community meeting.

Others in the community have expressed concerns regarding the size of the project; although the footprint remains the same, adding a third floor elevates the building above 40 feet, taller than nearby buildings.

Jen Gower, one of the organizers of the fledgling organization Concerned Citizens of Greater Arbutus, said she would rather see developers and investors put money into revitalizing existing structures along East Drive, in central Arbutus, rather than build new structures.

“We have so many empty buildings at this point, it’s just frustrating," Gower said. “If they want to put money in the area, let’s redo what we have and make it cute, like Mayberry.”

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