Residents group shifts its Pimlico slots stance

Mount Washington association voices outright opposition

October 23, 2003|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

An influential association that represents Mount Washington homeowners has voted to take a hard-line stance against allowing slot machines at Pimlico Race Course.

The Mount Washington Improvement Association decided at a meeting late Tuesday to alter its previous position on expanded gambling for the racetrack, which borders Mount Washington.

The group previously said that it was opposed to slots "unless certain conditions were met" to mitigate the impact on the neighborhoods, said association President Jan Franz.

She said the association's board of directors voted Tuesday to switch to outright opposition of slots at Pimlico.

"We wanted to take a stronger position," Franz said.

The change of position was prompted by the track's request to the city for rapid approval of broad and open-ended renovation plans tied to slots.

Some other communities that have been considered for slots, such as residents of Timonium near the Maryland State Fairgrounds, have taken a similar position.

"This puts us more along the lines of what's going on at Timonium," said Aaron Meisner, a Mount Washington activist.

Meisner said some elected officials who support slots have been putting out the word that "people in Baltimore do not oppose slots."

"What this demonstrates is that people in Baltimore are very much opposed to slots and you are going to hear more and more strenuous opposition," he said.

Walter Lynch, project manager for the Pimlico rebuilding project, said Mount Washington's group represents only one of many communities around Pimlico and that others support slots and the improvements they can bring.

"I don't think anyone doesn't want Pimlico improved, including the people in Mount Washington," he said. "Some people understand that to improve it you need to have an income source to do that and this is the best way to fulfill everybody's wishes."

The racetrack's owner, Magna Entertainment Corp. of Aurora, Canada, has promised to renovate the track, but it says it can accomplish the project faster with the income the machines would generate.

Under a plan that has won tentative city approval, the track's oval would be widened and rotated and the grandstand would be moved across the infield. A 500,000-square-foot clubhouse would be built in two phases. If slots are approved, they would go in the clubhouse.

The plan also calls for about 800 new stalls, new living quarters for backstretch workers, a new paddock and 6,000 permanent parking spots, 50 percent more than are at the track now.

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