Racing complex perks offered Developers suggest road improvements, parks to win support

Plan meets with criticism

Some leaders say those amenities won't ease noise or traffic

January 13, 1998|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Developers of a proposed 54,800-seat auto racetrack west of Fort Meade said yesterday they might build eight public ball fields, a skateboard park and improve road intersections to win the support of skeptical neighbors.

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary said the suggestion by the Middle River Racing Association of Timonium seems to indicate the developers want to be "good neighbors" to nearby Russett and Maryland City.

But some community leaders reacted hostilely, saying construction of soccer fields would not ease the noise and traffic problems created by a racing complex.

"What the heck would we need a skateboard park for if kids don't even want to be in the area because of loud NASCAR races, motorcycle races and monster-truck rallies?" asked Jeanne Mignon, a Russet Homeowners' Association representative.

Last night was the first time developers met with about 20 community members to discuss their proposal with a small number of Russett and Maryland City leaders at Odenton Elementary School.

Although the racetrack could generate as much as $10 million a year in taxes for the county, Gary and County Councilman Bert L. Rice have insisted they will not support it unless residents are convinced the track will not hurt their neighborhoods.

The developers -- who recently announced that they had given up building in Baltimore County -- have asked Anne Arundel County to change zoning laws to speed the approval process.

In an interview with The Sun yesterday, developers said they hope to build the track by 2000 on 380 acres of industrial land south of Route 32 and west of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.

The site is an abandoned gravel mine, with the Maryland House of Correction Reformatory for Women to the north, an industrial park to the east and the headquarters of the National Security Agency to the east.

"What we've got there now is an industrial moonscape," said Joseph Mattioli III, chief operating officer of the racing association. "We could plant a petunia in the middle of it and it would be an improvement."

Chris Lencheski, general manager of the racing association, said yesterday that the roughly 17,000 cars that major events would draw to the track would be no problem to Russett. Fans would avoid the subdivision, driving along Route 32 to Dorsey Run Road.

The track would be surrounded by 30-foot earthen berms that would dampen sound to a level that would not disturb neighbors, the developers said. In addition, the builders would leave a wooded area to shield the Russett subdivision from the track.

The racing complex would produce air pollution -- about 7.3 tons a year of volatile organic compounds and 1.7 million tons a year of nitrous oxides, according to the developers. But this is below the federal limit of 25 tons a year for such a development, the developers say.

To convince neighbors that the track would be good for them, the developers might offer to build recreational facilities, Mattioli said. During a presentation to community leaders last night, Mattioli said the developers don't yet know what neighborhood improvements they might pay for. That decision would be made by the residents, he said.

One member of the audience said that Route 32 is inadequate and would need to be widened.

"In my opinion, we need to get that road fixed before this project could move forward," said Mike Shylanski, Greater Severn Improvement Association president.

"The community is saying, 'What's in this for us?' " said Gary. "[The recreational facilities] certainly are one thing that could be in this for the community -- if they are willing."

Peter Militch, a Russett resident, said the community cannot be bought off. He said neighbors are already organizing to fight the racetrack under the acronym CARS (Citizens Against the Racing Stadium). "They have zero probability of winning over the support of the community," said Militch, a 42-year-old engineer.

Pub Date: 1/13/98

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