Preservationist called in to weigh racetrack plan

November 06, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

What does the future hold for historic Havre de Grace?

The proposed Maryland Motorsports Park on 550 acres off U.S. 40 has prompted increasing discussion about what's in store for the waterfront town and the surrounding area.

"The community is being transformed," said Daniel J. Fogerty, program associate for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit organization. "The racetrack is a wake-up call."

Mr. Fogerty was invited to tour the town and proposed track site Thursday by the Citizens Against Racetrack (CAR). He will speak at 2 p.m. today at Havre de Grace High School on how urban

sprawl affects small towns.

"My role is to put this issue in a larger context," said Mr. Fogerty, who works out of the trust's mid-Atlantic office in Philadelphia. "I'm not a hired gun to execute the project. I want to emphasize the idea of choice and a long-term commitment to values."

At issue is a proposed $10 million multipurpose motor sports complex, which would be located about 1 1/2 miles from downtown Havre de Grace. 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 there are expected to draw up to 40,000 visitors.

"It's a tempest in a teapot," Mr. Fogerty said. "It represents what goes on in towns all over the country."

Mr. Fogerty, an architect, is involved in sprawl issues in pastoral Lancaster, Pa., where a "power center" of superstores is trying to locate, and represented the trust when Disney made its failed move to locate a history theme park in Virginia.

The trust gets requests for help from all over the country, Mr. Fogerty said, though it is not able to respond to all of them. However, "we feel Havre de Grace is an interesting small town on the urban fringe that is targeted for growth," he said.

"It's not that you shouldn't have a track, but that the community has choices," Mr. Fogerty said. "Everybody needs to be listened to. Whether the track comes or goes, the community must keep going and come up with an economic development plan."

"We thought it [the trust] was a good place to go," CAR co-chairwoman Ruth Hendricksen said. "We wanted someone outside the community to address the issue. We need to get public awareness."

CAR was formed in July after residents learned of developer D. Richard Rothman's proposal to build a racetrack in their back yard.

"The developer has not been forthcoming with the facts. He's more intent on attacking us," Mrs. Hendricksen's husband, Ronald, said. "The purpose [of CAR] is to find out the facts."

Mr. Hendricksen also is on a 14-member task force appointed by Havre de Grace Mayor Gunther Hirsch to study the racetrack issue. The group is expected to report to the City Council early next year.

Meanwhile, a group that supports the racetrack idea has also been formed. R.I.G.H.T! Racing Is Good for Harford Tourism will meet at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15 at the Sheraton Inn Aberdeen.

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