Arundel Digest


March 04, 2003

Officials outline cost to county of slots at Laurel

In releasing their estimates on the local impact of slot machines, Anne Arundel County officials used the opportunity to ask for the return of the Maryland Million race and for sustained racing at Laurel Park.

County officials estimated in a Feb. 25 memorandum to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and legislative leaders that the placement of slot machines at Laurel Park in northwest Anne Arundel would cost the county $850,000 in startup costs and $6 million a year thereafter.

Ehrlich has proposed legalizing slot machines at Maryland's horse racing tracks to help make up a $1.2 billion budget shortfall for the fiscal year starting July 1.

If slots were approved, the memo says, the county's costs would include hiring 12 paramedics and building a new location for them, hiring 16 police officers, adding fire fighting support and boosting bus transportation around the track.

It also states that "Anne Arundel County would ... insist on the commitment of the `Maryland Million' to continue at Laurel Park." For the past two years, the state's second-largest thoroughbred racing event has been held at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore because of suspected structural problems with Laurel's grandstand. County Executive Janet S. Owens had previously used the event to promote economic development.

A county committee is studying the various slots proposals to assess their potential economic impact, says the memo, which was requested by the state. The county estimates are predicated upon the assumption that the amount of racing at Laurel will remain constant.

Council inaction stalls developer's `village' plan

For the second consecutive week, the developers looking to build on a much-debated Bestgate Road property left an Anne Arundel County Council meeting last night without getting what they wanted.

Sturbridge Homes representatives pushed yesterday for an amendment that would have allowed them to build 340 condominiums on a property on the Annapolis Neck, but no such amendment was introduced.

"I think it was the last shot," said Michael DeStefano, the president of the Gambrills-based developer.

Last week, the Council did not introduce an expected amendment that would have allowed Sturbridge to build a commercial and residential "village" on the property near the Annapolis mall.

After the setbacks, the developers said they could build 140 townhomes on the property's front and about 17 larger homes in back. While it would be legally possible for the property to be rezoned for the condos at a later time, DeStefano said last night that a lack of political backing will prevent that from happening.

Many residents have opposed extra construction on the Bestgate Road property, in part because they feared traffic problems.

Also last night, Councilwoman Barbara D. Samorajczyk, a Democrat who represents the Annapolis Neck, withdrew her proposal that would have recommended blocking large-scale residential growth in part of her district until a fire station is built at Bay Ridge and Arundel on the Bay roads.

She said she lacked the necessary Council support and was encouraged by tentative discussion about putting a temporary station on the site. Fire and rescue response times in the area have come under scrutiny.

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