Developer touts racetrack to U.S. 40 businesses

September 18, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

Developer D. Richard Rothman brought a glossy site plan to lunch, but business people from the U.S. 40 corridor expressed concerns about noise, traffic, taxes, construction costs and labor issues associated with Maryland Motorsports Park, his proposed racetrack outside Havre de Grace.

Mr. Rothman, president of Suburban Homes in Baltimore, and design engineer Jim Tevebaugh touted the racetrack project to about 50 members of the U.S. 40 Business Association who had invited the track's developers to the luncheon meeting at the Richlin Ballroom in Edgewood.

The auto racetrack, Mr. Rothman said, "will bring plenty of business into the county. We're trying to do something here that is cutting edge."

The proposed project is for a $10 million multipurpose motor sports complex on 550 acres off U.S. 40, about 1 1/2 miles from downtown Havre de Grace and within 10 miles of three Interstate exits.

It would include a 2.5-mile road course designed to specifications suited to everything from vintage cars to Indy, stock and Formula One cars and an amphitheater for music festivals and picnicking areas.

Events are expected to draw about 40,000 visitors to the racetrack.

"I want something in Harford County besides Rocks State Park," said Cyndee Runyon, a supporter of the project and a new member of the business association.

Gabe Ingrassia, the association's president, asked the developer about noise and traffic problems that the track could generate.

"We have every confidence when dealing with traffic volume that we are not going to have a problem," Mr. Tevebaugh said.

He estimated that there would be a 50-50 split when traffic would leave the area after events, with half of the vehicles going west and the rest heading east on area roads.

He said arrivals would be staggered for scheduled events. "It won't be like Camden Yards. People don't show up 30 to 40 minutes before game time. They start showing up at 8 a.m.," Mr. Tevebaugh said.

There also will be no drain on the local water and sewer infrastructure, Mr. Tevebaugh said, because deluxe portable toilet facilities will be trucked to the grounds for events.

Mr. Rothman used a graph to explain the proposed racing park's usage. The graph detailed 17 days for racing events and 209 days when the park would be unoccupied.

The remaining time would be filled with such activities as professional driving schools and a bluegrass festival, Mr. Rothman said.

"We want it to have a community use," he said.

He and Mr. Tevebaugh assured the association that the track would use local labor, at prevailing wages, to build, and the facility would contribute taxes to Harford County.

But, "there are no schoolchildren to educate in this," Mr. Tevebaugh said, referring to other options for the land, such as a housing development, which would probably attract families with children.

The two men also noted that, during racing events, crews and other racing personnel would patronize local motels, eat in local restaurants and visit local sites.

The developers said they also are planning a motor sports village on the property, with 50,000 square feet of space for racing-associated businesses.

Mr. Rothman said the crown jewel of the park will be a refurbished mansion with stained-glass windows that will become the clubhouse. "It will have a very commanding view of (( the track," he said.

After the meeting, members of the business association were cautious about speaking in favor of the project.

"It looks a lot less threatening than anything else out there," said N. K. "Skip" Moulsdale about the property's usage.

"There's a lot you can sink your teeth in with this project," said Paul Gilbert, director of the Harford County Office of Economic Development. "But it generates concerns and issues that need to be addressed."

Mr. Gilbert was questioning studies that the developers are conducting on the project on such things as sound and environmental impacts.

"No one has any idea what they include," Mr. Gilbert said. "It's tough to make a judgment until we get independent analyses."

There is another catch to the plan: the land is not zoned for a racetrack.

The developers have an option to buy the property, which is zoned industrial/residential and agricultural. They want Havre de Grace to annex it so that local zoning can be amended to accommodate the racetrack.

Havre de Grace Mayor Gunther Hirsch has appointed a 14-member task force to examine the project and report its findings to the City Council in four to six months. If the city council favors annexing the land, the Harford County Council would be asked to approve a waiver for a zoning change on it.

Until then, the developers say, they will continue to present their plan to citizens and organizations.

"We're here to give out information," Mr. Rothman said.

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