Racetrack barns shift is opposed

June 10, 1994|By Erik Nelson | Erik Nelson,Sun Staff Writer

Laurel Race Course will have to keep its 1,000 horses and their daily output of 25 tons of manure elsewhere, if the Howard County Planning Board has anything to say about it.

Proponents of a new 78,600-seat Redskins football stadium in Laurel yesterday failed to win the board's endorsement for a zoning change that would let the track's stables be moved from Anne Arundel County to make room for parking needed for the proposed stadium.

The 4-0 vote is only an advisory action, since the board has no power to grant the zoning change. County Council members are to convene as the Zoning Board to hear testimony on the proposal at 8 p.m. July 13 in the George Howard county office building in Ellicott City.

But stadium opponents were pleased that the Planning Board has recommended against the proposed new new zoning classification.

"The implication is that it's a big win, because this is the first time we've been able to to litigate this thing before a public body, with both sides being heard," said Walter H. Maloney, a member of Citizens Against the Stadium II, a Laurel-based group.

Tim Capps, vice president of communications for the racetrack, said it would be premature to comment on the Planning Board's vote before the track presents its proposal to the Zoning Board.

Called a "sports facilities ancillary use overlay district," the new zoning classification sought by Laurel Racing Association Limited Partnership would apply to 64 acres now used for race course parking.

At yesterday's Planning Board meeting, however, several area residents, including both of Laurel's state delegates, said they opposed plans to move the stables to Howard, in part because such a move would be accompanied by the odors, flies and potential health problems generated by tons of manure.

Planning Board Chair Joan Lancos prompted applause from stadium and stable opponents when she said that while Anne Arundel County would get a new sports complex, "we're getting the h ."

Ms. Lancos said she would consider a less drastic regulatory change that would allow the facility. But she said she voted against the proposal because she considers creating a special zoning district for the 25 new horse barns to be "overkill."

Other board members were less generous in their views on the $250,000 stables project, which race course representatives say would be paid for by the Redskins organization.

"You don't have a herd of 1,000 animals anyplace in Howard County," said board member Theodore F. Mariani, who keeps livestock on his farm in western Howard.

"No one has shown us why we have to move those stables to Howard County."

Some neighbors of the track property said the existing stables cause problems, even though they are on the other side of the CSX railway that runs along the county line.

"I have pests; I have odors now. I spray for flies," said Cindy Miliner, whose family owns the Valencia Motel, whose property on U.S. 1 abuts the track's property. "I can't imagine what it's going to be like with the stables right on top of it."

Residents of the Midway Mobile Home Park, which would be 150 feet from the proposed stables, gave similar testimony.

Mr. Capps conceded that the stables would emit an odor, but said the manure would be hauled away daily to be used as fertilizer out of state. He said that because of the value of the horses -- an estimated $50 million combined -- horse owners demand that the stables be kept tidy and sanitary.

He also said the track has its own vermin-control expert, known as "Trapper John," and many "feline friends" to keep pests under control.

In her testimony against the stables, however, North Laurel Park resident Donna Thewes said that while the cats help clear rodents from the stables, they are wild and create problems elsewhere.

"Cats run all through our neighborhood," she said.

"They're even in our school, giving birth underneath the trailers."

Residents also complained about the daily traffic the new facility would generate, including horse-carrier trucks and contractors hauling fodder in and animal waste out.

Bill Waff, president of the Howard County Citizens Association, told the board that to evaluate the proposal for Howard County, board members need to evaluate the wisdom of locating a stadium in Laurel.

"It should be in a location such as Camden Yards, where the infrastructure already exists -- roads, restaurants, et cetera. These do not exist near the stadium site, nor do we want them," Mr. Waff said.

But zoning attorney Ronald Schimel, representing the race course, said the impact of the stables on neighboring homes and businesses was not as bad as what existing zoning could bring.

The M-2, or heavy manufacturing, zoning that covers most of the site already allows such things as asphalt plants, auto and truck assembly plants, kennels and slaughterhouses.

Meanwhile, the Howard County Department of Planning & Zoning, which reports to County Executive Charles I. Ecker, has recommended approval of the zoning changes.

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