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Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Stronach Group lawyer Alan Rifkin listen to someone talk at a Monday meeting discussing proposed changes to Laurel Park racetrack. Stronach Group is proposing a multi-million dollar redevelopment to the site.
Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman and Stronach Group lawyer Alan Rifkin listen to someone talk at a Monday meeting discussing proposed changes to Laurel Park racetrack. Stronach Group is proposing a multi-million dollar redevelopment to the site. (Olivia Sanchez / Capital Gazette)

Community members trekked from all over Anne Arundel County on Monday night to discuss the proposed renovations to Laurel Park and potential impacts to the county should a proposed $173 million redevelopment make it the primary site for horse racing in the state.

If the proposal is accepted, the 108-year-old Laurel Park campus could see renovations including the construction of a new clubhouse and 1,500 new horse stalls.

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County Executive Steuart Pittman, who started the Retired Racehorse Project before running for office, held a town hall Monday at Laurel Park to discuss the proposed changes with county residents. Dozens attended and residents expressed concerns about length of development, construction and whether the county would increase police presence with the renovated campus. They also wanted to know where the workers — some of whom live on Laurel Park — would live during development.

Pittman has never been opposed to redevelopment at Laurel Park, but he also has said he didn’t want the Preakness Stakes to leave Baltimore. Although previous iterations of this plan attempted to bring Preakness Stakes to Laurel Park, this proposal allows Preakness to remain at Pimlico indefinitely, in accordance with a state law that requires it.

“I have to be honest — I like it,” Pittman said of the proposal. “It’s regionalism at its best.”

While the county executive said he was on board with the project, he wanted to hear community concerns and pledged to address them.

Councilman Andrew Pruski D-Gambrills, who represents the district where Laurel Park sits, said he is “100% supportive,” of the plan.

The investment in the county, and specifically in his district, will be good for the community, Pruski said. He called for continual public meetings throughout the process, and said that improvements to park-adjacent roads would help everyone involved.

Alan Rifkin, an attorney representing The Stronach Group, said the workers will likely be moved into temporary housing at Pimlico during development. Rifkin said construction is slated to take up to four years, with renovations being completed at Laurel Park before beginning at Pimlico.

The pricey additions slated to improve Laurel Park account for less than half of the plan proposed by private executives and local officials, including Pittman. In this third proposal to come forward this year, the group has suggested that nearly $200 million be spent to renovate Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Preakness would remain at Pimlico, in accordance with state law that only allows it to move in emergency circumstances, but the ownership of Pimlico would change.

Stronach officials have said it will donate Pimlico to the City of Baltimore, and lease it back each year to host Preakness Stakes, the second of the three historic horse races called the Triple Crown.

There is something at stake for almost every group in this contentious proposal, but the timeline from here is uncertain. Less than two weeks ago, the concerned parties sent a letter to Governor of Maryland Larry Hogan, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George’s, and Speaker of the House of Delegates Adrienne A. Jones, D-Baltimore County.

In the letter, the group asked for support of these plans in the upcoming legislative session.

It’s likely the plan will face opposition due to the complicated nature of the proposed repayment plan, which includes more than $340 million in bonds from the Maryland Stadium Authority, and the fact that casino owners or lawmakers who would rather not alter the original formula Maryland created when casinos were first authorized.

Capital reporter Rachael Pacella and Baltimore Sun reporters Pamela Wood, Doug Donovan and Jeff Barker contributed to this story.

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