Outsiders pack meeting on speedway Russett homeowners angered by turnout of auto racing fans

'I'm absolutely livid'

Developer denies bringing in backers from other areas

January 20, 1998|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

Auto racing fans from outside Anne Arundel County crowded into a public meeting last night on a 54,800-seat speedway proposed for the west county.

Leaders of the Russett Homeowners Association, which sponsored the meeting at Resurrection Roman Catholic Church, on Brock Bridge Road, said they were outraged that the developers brought scores of out-of-town boosters to a neighborhood meeting.

The developer denied the charge.

More than 650 people squeezed into the church, and traffic extended for more than a half-mile on Brock Bridge Road leading to the church. Many people were turned away.

"I'm absolutely livid that they packed nonlocal residents into a community's meeting," said Joseph L. Bles, a 55-year-old Maryland City resident.

The Middle River Racing Association of Timonium has asked Anne Arundel County to skirt the usual public hearing process and rapidly approve the automobile racetrack on 380 acres west of Fort Meade.

Although the land is zoned for industrial use, the speedway's parking lot would extend to within 1,000 feet of the affluent Russett community.

County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr. of Pasadena said last night that he is considering sponsoring legislation to allow the speedway because it would be an economic boon.

County Council Chairman Bert L. Rice of Odenton, in whose district the speedway would be built, said he is angry that Redmond would try to push the project into Rice's district.

"Why don't we put this in Redmond's district?" Rice asked.

Auto racing fans from Silver Spring and Middle River said at the meeting last night that representatives of the racing association had asked them by phone and e-mail to turn out in large numbers.

Supporters also signed petitions in favor of the speedway. A group of 60 to 80 from Middle River in Baltimore County got off a bus in front of the church about 7: 15 p.m., signed petitions and left, said county police Capt. Tim Bowman.

One track supporter walked into the church with a cup of beer and was asked by a police officer to pour it out and leave.

Michael Alfinito, spokesman for the racing association, denied that the developers had contacted any of the supporters or paid for the bus. Alfinito said supporters were coordinated by an association of racing fans formed three days ago.

Dave Miller of Baltimore, an organizer of the group mentioned by Alfinito, said his group was not involved in the effort to get supporters to the meeting.

Jeanne Mignon, vice president of the homeowners association, said about 97 percent of 1,500 Russett area residents contacted during a weekend survey opposed the track because they feared it would bring traffic and noise.

The legislation being considered by Redmond would change county zoning laws to speed up the process for the developers. The builders would have to appear only once before the County Council to get approval for the track instead of appearing at multiple county hearings.

"If this racetrack is going to be so great for the community, why do the developers attempt to circumvent the system?" said Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association.

The developers said they need to move quickly to claim future racing dates from competing tracks.

Pub Date: 1/20/98

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