Worldbridge dies after years of planning

July 17, 1991|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Baltimore County Bureau of the Sun

A New York developer's dream of an Asian theme park in Middle River won't come true if the Baltimore County Council member who represents the area can help it.

Vincent J. Gardina, D-5th, said yesterday he will not introduce the special zoning legislation necessary to allow the construction of Worldbridge Centre -- and will oppose it if anyone else does, effectively killing the project.

"Comparing costs to benefits, I don't think it's worth it," he said. "I'm not going to introduce the legislation, so I assume it will die."

Mr. Gardina, who is vacationing in Ocean City, called the project a "white elephant" and said 90 percent of his constituents oppose it.

Another council member could introduce the legislation at the request of County Executive Roger B. Hayden, but it is unlikely that it would be approved without Mr. Gardina's support.

Mr. Hayden has scheduled a news conference today to discuss the project. In the past, county officials have expressed skepticism about Worldbridge developer Dean L. Gitter's ability to get the financing necessary to complete the project.

Mr. Gitter refused to talk to reporters yesterday. But in a written statement, he referred to the Middle River location of Worldbridge in the past tense.

"Worldbridge Centre offered Baltimore County and the state of Maryland a unique opportunity to strengthen their position as a leader in international trade," said Mr. Gitter, who added that "we continue to be committed to the successful completion of this project."

Mr. Gitter has been trying for more than two years to win political and financial support for the $1 billion complex.

The proposed complex on about1,000 acres of vacant land was to include replicas of Mount Fuji, a Hindu temple from India, elephants and Buddhas -- all with the blessing of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled religious leader, county officials were told during the past three years.

But the project could not be built without special legislation to allow a theme park on the land zoned for industrial use.

Mr. Gardina said he was worried that the area does not have the roads and sewers, hotel accommodations, trash collection or police and fire protection to support it. Nor would Baltimore County's weather help attract the necessary crowds. "The weatherhere isn't year-round good weather like at Disney World," he said.

He said he'd prefer "to try to draw in businesses, high-tech and nationally recognized good businesses, especially in an area that's economically depressed."

Some of his constituents also expressed hostility to Asians lingering from World War II and the Korean War as well as "this anti-Japanese trade thing." Others were concerned about businesses that would spin off.

The councilman said he was also worried about speculation on the property, said to be one of the largest remaining undeveloped tracts in the Northeast Corridor.

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