Worldbridge, hit by loss of key supporters, has few mourners Theme park's developer says he may take his project elsewhere.

July 18, 1991|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

For Carlisle L. Ewing, 68, Middle River auto graveyard operator and former U.S. Marine, the body blow that Baltimore County officials delivered this week to the proposed Worldbridge Asian theme park and trade center doesn't repair the politicians' images one bit.

"I hope both of 'em go down the drain," Ewing said of County Executive Roger B. Hayden and County Councilman Vince Gardina, D-5th.

On Tuesday, Hayden and Gardina announced they would not support special zoning regulations needed for the theme park to become reality.

Their opposition, Ewing said, merely represented a belated recognition that Middle River folks vote in Baltimore County elections, and New York developers and big corporations do not.

Besides, Ewing said, "nobody's come around and offered me 10 cents for my business, but they show it on their pictures as a

pond with a palm tree next to it."

Ewing's 10-acre junkyard sits within the 1,016 acres developerDean L. Gitter had planned to use for the complex.

Other opponents of the project were pleased at the elected officials' actions. Whether the project can still be done in some form remains uncertain, but at the very least, county opposition to special zoning was a major setback for Worldbridge in eastern Baltimore County.

John J. Schmidt, vice president of the Bowley's Quarters Improvement Association and a member of a citizens committee that was created to revise the special zoning regulations to accommodate the park, said, "We're pleased with the decision by Vince Gardina."

He said he agrees with the councilman that the theme park would be only a seasonal attraction.

"We want an industrial park. My community was against [Worldbridge]," he said. "There was no concrete plan you could look at."

He said he believes the project is now dead, despite what Gitter says.

Gitter yesterday issued another prepared statement attacking both Hayden and his predecessor, Dennis F. Rasmussen, who he said "have fallen into the short-term trap of playing to a minority of ill-informed local opposition. . . . "

NTC He insisted that "Worldbridge Centre is alive and well," although he said the project could relocate.

Not only is the project prepared to continue elsewhere, Gitter said, but he is not prepared to concede defeat in Middle River.

Fred Conrad, a member of the Bowley's Quarters Improvement Association and also on the special zoning committee, said the zoning would have allowed too many possible uses for the huge tract between Eastern Boulevard and Md. 40. Also, such a tourist attraction would bring too much traffic, he said.

Even Worldbridge supporters couldn't defend the way in which the project has been presented to the community.

Pat Winter, director of the Eastern Baltimore Area Chamber of Commerce and a Worldbridge backer, had no argument with Hayden's and Gardina's actions.

"The Worldbridge people have fallen down in presenting a program the community can buy into," she said. "I would like to see the project looked upon favorably."

Gitter unveiled his $500 million development idea in May 1988, and Rasmussen was an enthusiastic booster until he was defeated for re-election last November. Hayden said in December that he, too, supported the development, but only if Gitter could muster popular support and financial backing.

The executive and Gardina both said, however, that Gitter has done neither and appears unable to get financing. So they withdrew support for the special zoning definitions that would provide for a cultural theme park in county zoning law.

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