State legislators join fray over auto track Statement criticizes Redmond for proposing 'end run' zoning change

March 18, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

State legislators have waded into the debate over plans for an auto racetrack in Pasadena, chiding County Councilman Thomas Redmond Sr. for proposing a zoning change to allow the track on land zoned heavy industrial.

The proposed change, to allow "motor sports racing complexes" as a conditional use, would let developers avoid a hearing for a special exception. If passed, the change would be reviewed by zoning officials, not an administrative hearing officer.

The senator and delegates from District 31, which includes Pasadena, have no policy control over the proposal, but they issued a statement yesterday, one day after Redmond introduced the zoning legislation.

"To try to do an end run around the standard administrative hearing process for special interests so that the project can be rammed through is a slap in the face" for residents and other zoning applicants, the statement said.

Redmond, a Democrat, seemed puzzled by the attack yesterday.

"I don't know what they are trying to do here," he said. "We scheduled public meetings on this."

A public forum with the developer, the Middle River Racing Association, and county officials is scheduled for April 9, Redmond said.

L The public hearing on his legislation will be held April 20.

A motor speedway proposed on land where zoning allows incinerators and chemical plants shouldn't need a special-exception hearing, he said.

The Middle River Racing Association wants to build the 54,800-seat racetrack on the state-owned site of a former copper refinery.

Redmond's bill lists 16 conditions relating to lot size, amount of parking, distance from property lines, limits on noise level and other matters.

Pasadena residents should have been consulted about the proposal by now and should be allowed to speak about it in a special-exception hearing, said Del. John R. Leopold, a Pasadena Republican.

"We feel that the time must be found to fully involve the impacted residents," he said. "We are not necessarily opposed to the project."

Public outcry against a racetrack drove Middle River out of eastern Baltimore County and, most recently, western Anne Arundel County.

Carolyn Roeding, president of the Greater Pasadena Council, said the Pasadena proposal seems to be moving forward at a "mind-boggling" pace without a voice for residents.

"It looks like they don't want to hear from the residents at all," she said.

Roeding, whose council has members from 40 homeowners associations, said no one from the Middle River group has tried to contact her.

"It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth the whole way this was handled," she said.

Redmond said that by supporting the track he is listening to his constituents, not ignoring them.

About 50 people have called his office in support of the track and a dozen or so in opposition, he said.

Supporting the track is also part of his responsibility to bring economic development and revenue to his district, the councilman said.

Redmond said a community special benefits district set up for the speedway would bring in at least $500,000 in grants to churches, beautification projects and other community needs.

Middle River Racing Association officials are "encouraged" by Redmond's bill and will work to address community concerns, said Michael C. Alfinito, director of corporate communications for the Timonium company.

"We have an unusual ability to reclaim an abandoned refinery that is located in close proximity to heavy industry," Alfinito said. "We feel that our property is the best possible use for that site."

Pub Date: 3/18/98

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