Panel rescheduling meeting to decide fate of proposed racetrack Residents, politicians sought date when more could attend

November 11, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

A state advisory committee, flooded with letters from residents, is rescheduling a meeting that was to have been held next week to decide the fate of a proposed auto racetrack on the Solley Peninsula.

Residents and two local politicians asked the Maryland Port Administration to hold the meeting when more people would be able to attend. The meeting, which was set for a weekday afternoon, probably will be held on an evening in mid-December, possibly in Pasadena, said Alan Kurland, director of the Port Land Use Development Office.

The newly constituted advisory committee -- its first meeting was last month -- had expected to work mostly on mundane leasing decisions. Instead, the panel's 11 members, appointed by the governor, have found themselves at the heart of a heated public debate.

"I guess when we have something of serious community interest like this we have to look into accommodating people," Kurland said. "It just so happens that our first project is controversial."

The developer, Chesapeake Bay Motorsports Development Corp., wants to lease 100 acres for the track along port-owned waterfront land at the Kembo Road site known as Cox Creek. Securing that land is the last major hurdle to constructing the track.

The developer sailed through County Council approval in April with the backing of County Councilman Thomas W. Redmond Sr. and County Executive John G. Gary. Gary appeared at the advisory council's meeting to assure members that the county was behind the effort to build a track.

Redmond and Gary were defeated for re-election this month, and opponents are hoping that incoming Councilwoman Shirley Murphy and County Executive Janet S. Owens will side with them. Both have publicly expressed reservations about the track.

In the past, a developer with the county's support had only to secure a lease from the Port Administration. Now, the MPA defers leasing decisions to the advisory council.

Even if the new county officials oppose the track, it is unlikely that the advisory council will act based on track opponents' concerns about the possible community, environmental and financial effects of the track. Kurland said those issues are important to the advisory council and will carry some weight but that the advisory committee's main duty is to assess whether a project enhances development of the port.

The Port Administration acquired the 360 acres off Kembo Road in 1993. Two hundred acres is wetlands that cannot be developed, and dredge spoil from Baltimore harbor is spread over an additional 61 acres.

The remaining 100 acres would accommodate an 80-acre racetrack, developers said, but not parking, administration buildings and storage, which would require an additional 500 or 600 acres.

Developers have said they intend to buy more land on the Pasadena peninsula.

Pub Date: 11/11/98

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