Terri Todd has become a spectacle.
She is watched by guests of the new hotel next door as they lounge on their balconies above the bay overlooking her house's waterfront deck in the town of Chesapeake Beach.
"It's just not the same as it used to be," said Todd, who has lived in her two-story clapboard house for five years.
Since it opened in March, the 72-room Chesapeake Beach Hotel -- built by Gerald Donovan, the town's mayor and one of its leading businessmen -- has generated a lot of chatter among townspeople. They have kept track of the traffic, worried about noise and exchanged rumors of gambling coming to Chesapeake Beach, a small town that once was a popular getaway for people living in Washington and Baltimore.
But Donovan said that's normal.
"I think that with anything that's new there's always a learning curve," he said.
The hotel will be joined on the local skyline this fall by the town's first high-rise -- the seven-story "Horizons on the Bay" condominium building just off the waterfront.
Chesapeake Beach, population 3,000, has not had a real hotel since the Belvedere closed in 1923, when the town was still in its heyday as a resort and gambling center. Some neighbors and local officials worry that the new hotel will bring in slot machines if they are legalized in Maryland.
"Everyone knows it was built for gambling," said Pat "Irish" Mahoney, a Town Council member and sometime Donovan critic. "The only way the hotel is going to succeed is if Mayor Donovan gets gambling down here."
Neighbors have raised concerns about noise, occasional trespassers and lights from the hotel and its parking lot, and some have called the hotel with complaints.
"A lot of people are mad because it blocks the bay view," said Kathy Miller, 44, as she watered her lawn a few houses away from the hotel. "There's light pollution, so you can't see the stars well at night."
But mainly, residents are afraid of gambling. "There's not much reason to come to the hotel if there's isn't gambling," said Barbara Fairchild, 68, another neighbor. That sentiment has persisted in town as the hotel was being planned and constructed over the past few years.
Throughout the process, Donovan has rejected such speculation, insisting that the new building fills a key need in the community: a hotel where visiting relatives can stay.
"There was never any consideration given to any form of gambling ever being put in the hotel," he said. "That's the unknown fear, and people like to spread those kind of unfounded rumors."
With nightly rates that range from $119 to $289, the hotel may be too expensive for many locals looking for a place to put up visiting relatives, some in town say. Despite the concerns and rumors, Donovan's prediction seems to be coming true: People are getting accustomed to the hotel and learning to live with the activity it generates.
"We were very annoyed at first, and now we're beginning to accept it's here," said Kathleen Scott, a neighbor who has lived in Chesapeake Beach for 20 years.
Todd agreed. "It hasn't been as bad as we thought it would be," she said.
With the hotel filling up every Friday and Saturday night, Donovan said, the occupancy rate is ahead of projections. "The hotel is going to help every business in town," he said.
"I notice a different kind of visitor . . . more day-trippers," said Harriet M. Stout, curator of the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, next door to the hotel.
At Scoops by the Bay, an ice-cream parlor across the street, sales have increased 10 percent to 15 percent since the hotel opened, said owner Ronnie Cahn of Tracy's Landing.
But Mahoney criticized what he said was public spending to benefit the hotel, noting an appropriation in the town budget for a $30,000 town clock that was placed near the hotel's entrance.
"The owner of the hotel wears a different hat as mayor of our town," Mahoney said. "We see enhancements financed by public funds that directly benefit the proprietor of the hotel."
Meanwhile, development continues along the waterfront in Chesapeake Beach and its neighbor, North Beach. The Horizons on the Bay condominium project is going ahead after objections held up construction for nearly a decade.
"Some people who wrote letters of protest are moving in," said Ken Muller of Tidewater Homes, the project's developer. "And traffic flow won't affect anybody because it's mostly people 55 and up -- very few family units."
All 72 units of the $20 million project have been sold, even though the project will not be complete until this fall.
"On the western shore, this is probably one of the larger residential units," Muller said.
North Beach development plans include a 72-room hotel, 136 condominium units and a four-story parking facility, Mayor Mark R. Frazer said. Developers are waiting to weigh the success of Donovan's hotel before moving ahead with one in North Beach, he said.
"When I moved here in 1997, I said this town could once again be a premier destination," Frazer said.
But Donovan assures residents that Chesapeake Beach will not become the resort it once was.
"Our community is still what we want it to be," he said, "a small town."