Former banker wants to build Howard's first go-cart track Proposed Elkridge site in sports center requires change in zoning rules

July 30, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

If a former banker has his way, Elkridge could be home to Howard County's first go-cart track.

Jim Harris, who worked for Maryland National Bank for 20 years, wants to build the Rounding Third Family Entertainment center on 4.1 acres on Amberton Road in the Route 100 Industrial Park at the northeast corner of U.S. 1 and Route 100.

Harris, owner of the Rounding Third Sport Center in the Baltimore-Washington Commerce Park in Elkridge, said the $2 million venture would include six batting cages, two pitching tunnels, a 2,000-square-foot arcade, a multipurpose indoor basketball court, three indoor golf ranges, three outdoor sand volleyball courts, a miniature golf course and the go-cart track.

Market study

Armed with a market study that showed a profit margin for a center with five athletic activities, Harris said he approached the County Council more than 18 months ago to seek a change in the zoning regulations, which do not allow go-cart tracks in M2, or industrial, districts.

Harris' current Rounding Third center will close Aug. 13. He said he intends to open in the Route 100 Industrial Park -- less than a mile away -- Sept. 3, without the go-cart track.

Harris said that a financial review two years ago showed that his current business -- which offers only batting cages and an arcade -- was operating at a loss of a "couple hundred thousands" of dollars over a two-year span.

Drafted by Councilman C. Vernon Gray, an amendment that the Planning Board will consider today would permit go-cart tracks as part of a recreation complex with at least two other activities. The speedways would also have to be at least 200 feet from residential areas.

"My concern was that if we put [go-cart tracks] next to homes, it would cause noise and disturbance," Gray said.

"I thought that this [requirement] made sense."

County bylaws

Even if the Planning Board gives the green light today, it is doubtful that Harris would be able to open a speedway by April -- his projected date -- because the Zoning Board won't be able to review the amendment until January at the earliest.

County bylaws prohibit the board, which comprises the members of the County Council, from ruling on new cases during an election year between its monthlong vacation that begins Monday and the general election in November. The amendment likely would have to wait until a new council is sworn in, with a vote in January.

Previously unaware of this regulation, Harris said the delay could hamper his plans.

"I'll probably have to start full circle again," Harris said in a telephone interview from Ocean City. "They'll get a new council, and they'll have to look at [the amendment] all over again. This could be devastating."

Delay in opening

Harris said the delay could mean that the go-cart track would not open until 2000.

"This could have an impact," he said. "But I have to continue on. There's no going back now."

Harris, who said he has presented his plan to several community groups, said the center would be an asset to Elkridge.

"I'm anxious to have a place where kids can go instead of having kids hanging out at the mall," Harris said. "This gives teen-agers a place to go in a controlled atmosphere."

Pub Date: 7/30/98

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