Plans for fun park dropped

New law nullifies zoning variance for Dover Road proposal

Glen Burnie

November 09, 2001|By Rona Kobell | Rona Kobell,SUN STAFF

The Les Jenkins Family Fun Park's bumpy ride seems to have ended in Anne Arundel County.

Last night, Baltimore County developer Les Jenkins announced he would not press ahead with plans to build his go-cart park on Dover Road in Glen Burnie, because of a law effectively banning the park that was signed yesterday by County Executive Janet S. Owens hours before a zoning appeal hearing on his project.

Enacted as emergency legislation so it would take effect immediately, the bill bans go-cart tracks from operating on commercial recreation property. The law also bars the granting of zoning variances for amusement parks - such as the variance that Jenkins had won for his project in June from a county hearing officer.

Last night, the county Board of Appeals was supposed to hear an appeal from a group of homeowners who wanted the fun park's variance overturned. Because the new law nullifies the variance, the hearing ended abruptly.

"I don't believe that the law is fair, nor do I believe that it's legal," Jenkins told the board. "But I'm an American, and I'm going to go along with the law."

Yesterday's events ended the bitter struggle between Jenkins and Glen Burnie residents who have opposed the fun park because they fear it would bring more traffic and noise to an area near Ritchie Highway already teeming with both. They also worried about the potential impact on nearby Furnace Creek, which is closed to recreational use because of pollution.

Another factor sparking the opposition was Jenkins' own history. He had worked for Chesapeake Motorsports Development Corp., which tried to bring a racetrack to Pasadena in 1999 - failing because of neighborhood opposition. Jenkins maintained close ties with Chesapeake Motorsports founders Edward and Missy Berge, who live in Baltimore County.

Residents and legislators feared the park was a ruse for the Berges to build the racetrack they were denied in 1999 - despite Jen- kins' repeated assurances he was only trying to build a fun park, and that the variance prohibited racing.

They formed a group, Homeowners Organized to Protect Our Environment, and hired a lawyer, Thomas Deming, who specializes in representing community groups.

Last night, residents expressed relief that the project had been defeated.

"We're delighted," said Thomas Saunders, a spokesman for the residents' group. "It's pretty much what we expected."

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