Jockey Club lobbying for Pimlico plan

De Francis, 4 others urge city, community leaders to OK improvements

November 26, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

The Maryland Jockey Club is using five lobbyists -- including its president, Joseph A. De Francis -- to help win support for pending City Council legislation needed to redevelop Pimlico Race Course.

De Francis and his team of lobbyists have been meeting with community leaders for months to gain approval of a bill that will allow the club to make racetrack improvements that have worried some residents.

City law requires that De Francis and his team register as lobbyists if they intend to meet with council members regarding the legislation. De Francis and four others registered last week and have begun one-on-one meetings with council members.

The other lobbyists include: Karin De Francis, a Maryland Jockey Club executive vice president; Walter Lynch, the architect for the racetrack redevelopment project; Tim Capps, an executive vice president with the club; and Cheryl Benton, who ran City Council President Sheila Dixon's successful campaign in September's Democratic primary.

"We've been meeting since late spring with community organizations," said Benton, of CA Benton Associates in Washington.

The lobbying team plans to meet individually with all of the council's 19 members to help explain the bill.

The proposed legislation has worried some residents in neighborhoods near Pimlico since Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector introduced it last month. Spector's bill would allow for additions at Pimlico that include, among other uses, a 700-room hotel, theaters, a banquet hall and more.

The bill would allow Pimlico to operate under a new agreement called a planned unit development. It would replace a plan Pimlico agreed to 29 years ago but never completely fulfilled.

Spector has said the characterization of the new planned unit development has been unfair. She said the legislation is not intended to allow the Maryland Jockey Club to build an entertainment complex.

Pimlico officials have said they plan to demolish boarded-up houses on the property and add trees, shrubs and decorative fencing to beautify grounds around the race course. They would reconfigure the track's layout to make it larger and move horse barns and stables to allow room for multistory parking. A new grandstand would also be built.

Joseph De Francis publicly met with residents last month and responded to their concerns. The city is allowing community members to offer opinions through this month and will meet with neighborhood leaders next month to hear ideas on revising the bill.

"The public's input is vital to the plan moving forward," Benton said. "We want the community's support."

And the council's. The council will study the bill and any possible revisions in committee meetings before voting on it early next year.

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