Executive backs Sunday auto sales in Arundel Gary testifies for bill, calls blue laws antiquated

March 11, 1997|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive John D. Gary testified yesterday in favor of a bill to allow auto dealers in the county to open and sell vehicles on Sundays.

"Blue laws are antiquated and should be removed," Gary said at a hearing before the county's state legislative delegation in Annapolis.

Billionaire entrepreneur H. Wayne Huizenga, owner of the used car superstore chain, indicated earlier this year that that he wanted to open a lot in Glen Burnie and a vehicle restoration center near Pasadena.

Gary initially said he would support Sunday car sales only if a majority of the county's dealers favored it. But he changed his mind after talking with AutoNation representatives, who suggested that county dealers would lose business if the law wasn't changed.

The two facilities could employ as many as 560 workers and would represent investments of $27 million.

Gary told Anne Arundel's senators and delegates yesterday that the county should not interfere with the free market system.

J. William Pitcher, a lobbyist for AutoNation, said consumers' spending habits are changing and that 60 percent of them would like to be able to buy a car on Sunday.

"You can buy anything for your home on Sunday," Pitcher said. "You can buy liquor. You can go to the track and you can play Keno, but you can't buy a car."

Opponents of the proposed change in the law, including the majority of the new car dealers in the county, say they don't object to AutoNation coming into Maryland, but they insist on the company playing by the current rules.

Maybe I'm an old-fashioned guy," said Joseph B. Aiello, president of JBA Chevrolet in Glen Burnie, "but I think Sunday is a special day. It is a day to go to church, a day for families to be together."

Tony Evans, an Annapolis resident, told the lawmakers he enjoys going to car lots on Sunday to check out vehicles without being hassled by high-pressure salespeople.

Aiello said that many of the jobs that AutoNation will create will come from existing dealerships.

Some auto dealers insisted that they would sell no additional cars by opening seven days a week. "Only our overhead will increase," said Aiello.

But Arthur Turpel, an AutoNation executive, told the delegation that a competitor -- CarMax -- is moving to Savage, close to the Anne Arundel border in Howard County, "to siphon off as much [Sunday] business as possible" from Arundel dealers.

At present, only auto dealers in Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's Counties are allowed to open on Sundays.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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