Russett almost out of race for track Community no longer sole focus for site

March 08, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

Along the residential corridors of west county's Russett community, a collective sigh of relief could almost be heard late last week as residents realized a 54,800-seat racetrack may not end up in their back yard after all.

Representatives of Timonium's Middle River Racing Association, which since December has been considering Russett for its proposed $100 million racetrack, now are checking another site in the county, in North Pasadena near Hawkins Point.

"I'm a happy camper," said Gil Schoukroun, president of Citizens Against the Racetrack (CAR), a group of about 600 west county residents formed in January. "The cars, the noise, the people in big numbers. That turns people off. I'd rather have a factory sitting in my back yard than I would a racetrack."

The racing association has not had an easy time trying to sell its track anywhere. When the group tried to build a track in Baltimore County's White Marsh area, near Martin State Airport, residents there rebelled, saying it would create too much noise, traffic and air pollution.

After Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger late last year gave the racing association a list of demands, including a call for the developers to delay the opening date by several years and to pay $12 million for roads and other infrastructure, they came to Anne Arundel County.

Refinery site considered

Now, after months of dealing with the wrath of Russett residents, the racing association is looking at the old Kennecott Copper refinery site near Fort Smallwood and Kembo roads.

Residents there, however, are beginning to hear that news.

"I would say that nuisance-wise, it probably ranks high up on the scale," said Mary Rosso, who lives less than two miles from the refinery site. "The site is right on the water. Do you know how much noise reverberates when it's near the water?"

Opposition common

Residents' opposition has been frustrating, but it is common with development projects, said Richard J. Morgan, director of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp., which has been helping the association find possible sites.

"Tell me one project that's significant where there hasn't been opposition," Morgan said. "That's just a fact of life of development. It doesn't matter if it's a mall or another factory, people like things to stay the same."

Morgan said his organization also steered the racing association to consider a 600- to 800-acre property west of Baltimore-Washington International Airport. But he said it is less ideal than the Pasadena property because five or six people own the land, which could complicate site acquisition. The state owns the refinery site.

Ideal location

Chris Lencheski, the racing association's general manager, toured the Pasadena locale Friday and said he was happy about how close it is to Interstate 695. He emphasized that the group is still considering the Russett site, but it has started compiling information about the new site.

"Right now, it's an underperforming asset for the state of Maryland and certainly for Anne Arundel County," Lencheski said. "Where you are literally reclaiming an abandoned warehouse, it's potentially a good use of land."

Joseph Mattioli III, the racing association's chief operating officer, said the site seemed to have many advantages, especially its location, which would allow NASCAR fans to stay at Baltimore hotels and travel via water taxi to the racetrack.

Despite this new discussion, Jeanne Mignon, a Russett Homeowners' Association representative, said she is not going to let her guard down.

"Let's put it this way, [Mattioli] hasn't called me to tell me he's gone yet," Mignon said. "As long as they're still considering Russett, we will just stay in fighting mode."

Pub Date: 3/08/98

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