Proposal offered instead of track Developers want to recycle dredge spoil at site

Some residents in favor

July 15, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

A developers' group tried last night to slow what many residents see as the inevitable purchase of a Maryland Port Administration site on the Solley peninsula for use as a racetrack.

The group offered to use the property as a dredge spoil recycling facility.

It unveiled its plans for the property last night to an audience largely opposed to its use as a racetrack -- and ready to support anyone willing to compete with the speedway. The nearby Pasadena business community has come out largely in support of the proposed $100 million speedway, noting the economic benefits a major arena could bring to the area.

But last night, residents questioned whether the 100 acres of waterfront would be better suited for a harbor-related use.

"So far, we've been presented as this Appalachian backwater in need of economic revitalization," said Marcia Drenzyk, one of the meeting organizers. "This racetrack is not a panacea of economic development.

"Only liquor stores and gas stations might do well," she said. "If you look at tracks elsewhere, people who come, come prepared. They are not coming to go out on the town. They come to see races."

Port administration officials said they have made no commitments to either group.

"On the one hand, the [spoil recycling] approach sounds interesting," said Alan Kurland, property manager for the port administration. "On the other hand, the racing proposal seems to be successful in other areas. Their studies seem to show it could bring millions of dollars to the state."

Either way, Kurland said, both groups will have to wait until a newly appointed advisory panel reviews all proposals early this fall.

Racetrack developers are moving ahead anyway.

Last month, they sought approval to conduct soil test samples, and last week they announced that they signed a contract with Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. to build their stadium. They said they plan to open for business in 2000.

The port administration turned down the track developers' request to bypass local land-use approvals. Port officials said the developers had to abide by county rules that require permits to begin demolition and grading of the site.

The port administration acquired the 360 acres off Kembo Road in 1993, 61 acres of which is to be used for Baltimore harbor dredge spoil. Another 200 acres of wetlands cannot be developed.

The remaining 100 acres is enough to build an 80-acre track, developers said, but not enough to accommodate parking, administration buildings and storage, which could take an additional 500 or 600 acres.

Track builders have been soliciting nearby companies to sell their land, including more than 100 acres from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. They hope to create a patchwork of property across the peninsula for parking and other facilities.

Last night, officials from the small start-up dredge spoil company, Chesapeake Beneficial Material Corp., argued that their service would better suit the land, which is next to a rail line and has large pits dug by its former owner, a copper refinery.

The group, comprised of 12 academics, scientists and engineers from across the country, hopes to build the first dredge spoil processing plant that cleans the spoil with a technique similar to that used in oil fields to separate oil from mud.

Pub Date: 7/15/98

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