Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa plans major renovation
by Joey Almony
The Town of Chesapeake Beach, on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, home to the Chesapeake Beach Water Park, Veteran’s Memorial Park, the Railway Museum, Brownie’s Beach, and the local favorite, Rod N’ Reel and Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa, is getting a facelift.
To celebrate its 70th anniversary, owner Gerald Donovan is renovating the Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa, the largest investment in the history of Chesapeake Beach. The current facility contains three restaurants, including the popular Rod N’ Reel, two marinas, and a 72-room hotel with a spa. The renovation won’t touch the hotel or the neighboring Railway Museum, but everything else will be completely new. “We are going to be tearing down the current building, and starting anew,” said Wesley Donovan, Gerald’s son.
The Chesapeake Beach Planning and Zoning Commission approved the expansion project in March. The business will soon begin the two year renovation. The new complex will include many new amenities the town has never seen before, and will also improve existing ones at the current hotel and spa. An atrium will connect the existing hotel with the new complex. The new complex will add retail and restaurant space, which will include a new crab house with waterfront view, a facility to host weddings year-round, a conference space, 60 additional hotel rooms, a multi-story parking facility, and other amenities with full views of the bay. “The dining room will be facing east and north, with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the Chesapeake Bay,” said Wesley Donovan.
Donovan not only plans to renovate the Chesapeake Hotel and Spa, but also build a 58-unit luxury rental apartment complex, called Harbor Vista South Apartments, across the street at the mouth of Fishing Creek. The 58 apartments will vary from one, two, and three bedrooms, ranging from 800 to 1,300 square feet. Harbor Vista will also contain its own workout room, pet park, and party room. The apartment complex will have parking underneath and residents will have priority access to the Marina West boat slips right behind the complex and one block away from the bay.
Concerns about how the new expansion will affect the town, especially during construction, have been on the minds of many of Chesapeake Beach citizens. “My major concern is that the project lacks a robust Adequate Public Facilities (APFO) impact study that takes a critical look at all aspects that the demands of this project would generate on schools, traffic, infrastructure and facilities and the immediate environment, specifically Fishing Creek and the Bay,” said vice president of the Chesapeake Beach Town Council Pat “Irish” Mahoney.
With new residents and new attractions that the new buildings will bring, increased traffic will follow. With the industry standard two cars per unit for the Harbor Vista apartments, that will bring 116 new cars passing through the Mears Ave/Harbor Rd intersection, and down 261 which is a currently a two lane road. “It will exacerbate current traffic congestion and severely impact our waterfront communities from North Beach down to Chesapeake Village,” said Mahoney.
After construction is finished, the expansion of the fishing creek bridge will also be finished that will facilitate the flow of traffic through the intersection. “[The new bridge] has a stacking lane for vehicles if they turn left onto Mears Avenue, or they can go straight through the light if they are traveling south,” said Wesley Donovan.
Traffic during construction seems to be the main concern of students who live in the area that will be directly affected in neighborhoods like Windward Key and Chesapeake Station. Without the new bridge and construction, traffic will be become congested. “While building traffic is going to be chaotic, it’s going to be a hot mess because that is the only way across town,” said junior Lexi Wysocki. Construction will also bring noise and debris to the area.
Harbor Vista will not only bring traffic, but a population increase to the area. Concerns about the ability of schools to handle the influx of students are another concern. “The Beach Elementary School population will be exacerbated and another elementary school redistricting will be required. Northern High School will experience the domino effect,” said Mahoney. With the construction of the new school being constantly delayed, schools might not be able to handle the increase in students.
If these concerns are properly addressed, the new additions to the Chesapeake Beach community will bring many benefits to the residents living there. The new facilities will bring over 100 new jobs to the community and, without any tax increase on the horizon, it will benefit the town’s tax base for years to come. The economic benefits have brought the support of Mayor Bruce Wahl and Governor Larry Hogan. “After construction, it’s going to be so nice because of shopping and new places to eat,” said Wysocki.
Although some may be concerned with environmental effects on the bay and the creek, Gerald Donovan plans to make sure no harm comes to the bay. “We have always tried to do right by the environment, and the project will actually improve how rain water gets filtered before it goes into the bay. Both projects will exceed the required number of trees that have to be planted,” said Wesley Donovan.
The new construction will bring big changes to the small Chesapeake Beach community. If the concerns of citizens are addressed properly, the new additions will change the town of Chesapeake Beach to a bustling new attraction that will bring new business to Calvert County.