County details track limits Speedway developers must build wide roads to handle traffic

Timetable also lengthened

Promoters say timing, other restrictions might scuttle project

October 17, 1997|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County officials said yesterday that they would support a proposed auto speedway in Middle River only if promoters help build wide roads to handle traffic -- prompting promoters to warn that such restrictions might scuttle the project.

"We're conceptually in favor of the project," said County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who unveiled the plan in an hourlong meeting with representatives of the Middle River Racing Association, which wants to build the track on an 1,100-acre site.

But he said the county won't budge on traffic and sewerage requirements intended to keep all track traffic off residential roads and place the full burden of supplying utilities on the developer.

County officials said the track could open no earlier than three to four years from now because of state and federal requirements, not in 1999, as the supporters want. "It's impossible," Public Works Director Charles R. Olsen said of the developers' timetable.

The county's plan drew a veiled warning from Joe Mattioli III, the racing association's chief operating officer.

In a written statement, he welcomed the county's general support for the racetrack, but said the plan has "serious implications on the timing and development of this project."

He said his group would study the proposal and decide whether "in light of the rapid changes in the motor sports industry, development of the facility is feasible at this site."

Promoters have been shopping for other sites for the proposed $100 million project, prompted by fierce opposition from residents near the proposed site. They have identified potential sites in Harford and Anne Arundel counties and in the Chicago area.

But if the promoters agree in writing to the specific county requirements, Ruppersberger and County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat who represents the area, say they would introduce the zoning legislation before Jan. 1.

The racing association originally proposed a three-phase project starting with 54,800 seats and 10,500 parking places, widening residential roads east of the site and providing 100 shuttle buses from Martin State Airport and Essex Community College.

The county's plan instead calls for a five-lane extension of Campbell Boulevard southeast from Pulaski Highway (U.S. 40) into the 1,100-acre site, and a seven-lane, half-mile section of White Marsh Boulevard (Route 43), extending north into the site from Eastern Boulevard.

The developer would have to pay $6.2 million to widen those roads, which are scheduled to be built by the county and the state. The developer also would pay $6.5 million for water and sewer service.

Developers would be required to pay for county police needed to direct traffic. And the county would require a specific, written agreement covering such details as the aesthetic design of an earthen berm proposed for noise control.

On the other hand, the county's proposal also would allow the track to grow to 109,600 seats and 25,000 parking spaces after 2003, when White Marsh Boulevard is scheduled to link the site with Interstate 95.

"This is in direct response to community input," Gardina said of the plan, noting that virtually every point in the county plan was first raised by Adam Paul, president of the White Marsh Civic Association and a critic of the track.

Paul said he was satisfied with the county's plan, after he and a dozen other residents met late yesterday with county officials.

But Albert Marani, a Wilson Point resident, warned that even with earthen berms, "noise will be the dominant problem."

Local supporters of the track seemed satisfied, however.

"It's still a go," said Darell R. Cammack, president of the Essex-Middle River Chamber of Commerce. He called the county's plan "a very reasonable proposal."

Michael H. Davis, Ruppersberger's spokesman, said the county's proposal shouldn't pose a delay. County officials estimate that even the developer's proposal would take three to four years to build.

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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