Balto. Co. skating rink to remain open during review of license

Baltimore County will allow a Woodlawn roller skating rink to remain open another week while the county code enforcement officer decides whether to revoke its license.

Enforcement officer Meg Ferguson issued the order Thursday to give herself "sufficient time for proper consideration of the evidence and testimony" before deciding the fate of Skateworks, which county officials say is straining police resources, tying up traffic and violating the closing time spelled out on its license by staying open past midnight. It keeps the rink's license valid until 6 p.m. April 16.

"I take this as a really good sign and remain optimistic," said Baltimore Polytechnic Institute Principal Barney Wilson, one of four partners who say they have invested $1 million in the business. "It is easy to shut something down. The real thing is to bring government and private enterprise together to make it work."

The county Department of Permits and Inspections notified Wilson and his partners a week ago that the business had not adhered to the requirements of its license and would be closed, pending the outcome of a hearing. The rink and assembly hall, which opened in December 2008 in an industrial park near Security Boulevard, can accommodate 2,100 patrons.

"No one is looking to put a good business out of business," said Timothy M. Kotroco, the county director of permits and inspections. "We are hoping that through this hearing process, we can work out a resolution that will allow this business to continue to operate. We would like to find a happy medium."

The rink draws hundreds of youths on Fridays, county officials say, creating traffic, noise and dispersal problems for police at the close of business.

"If there is a solution, children have to know they must be part of it," Wilson said. "They have a lot at stake here and will have to be better behaved."

Police say Skateworks has generated 175 calls since it opened 15 months ago. They say the incidents have included assaults, thefts and fights, most of which have occurred in the late night hours.

"I know there was a lot of testimony that didn't sound good," Wilson said. "I am hoping that out of this, we can create a better relationship with the police and the county, a partnership that will serve our children."

Supporters say the rink has been a boon to the community. It schedules time for school and church groups and gives youth a place to expend energy, said Audrey Morton, the grandmother of co-owner Devin Johnson.

"This place has been a blessing to everyone who uses it," said Morton, who especially enjoys Monday's gospel skate.

Wilson says he and his business partners will renew efforts to work with the police.

"When police and schools work together, dismissals are peaceful," he said. "We have to set that kind of tone."

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