FREDERICK — FREDERICK -- Customers in the Silver Dollar Lounge sit at the bar and listen to the tunes of Billy Ray Cyrus at the I-70 Truck City Hotel.
But if the management of the 20-acre truck stop gets it's way, patrons could soon be lining up at betting windows and playing the horses.
Yesterday an attorney for 1-70 Truck City presented a plan to Frederick's mayor and board of aldermen that would turn the Silver Dollar into one of Maryland's first off-track betting parlors.
But Mayor Paul Gordon, the city's zoning director and a majority of the council members were cool to the idea. Jeffrey McEvoy, the attorney representing Truck City, had hoped to persuade Catherine Parks, Frederick's zoning director, that under an "accessory use" provision, zoning is in place that would permit an OTB parlor at the truck stop.
McEvoy said there is a hotel, two restaurants and a convenience store as well as an 18-bay truck station at the multipurpose location.
But Parks said "Is a simulated racetrack part of a trucking operation? No."
Alderman Jim Grimes said he didn't think it was "unreasonable" to act on the Truck City request at the council's weekly "workshop" session yesterday.
"We need to find creative ways to raise more revenues for the city," he said.
But other council members want to look into the proposal more thoroughly.
"I don't think we should be forced to make a decision that will come back and haunt us," said council member Sally Murphy.
Alderwoman Frances Baker said she didn't think an OTB parlor belonged in the city and another alderman Jon Kressig said the situation made him "a little queasy.
"There are going to [be] parking problems, space problems, all kinds of problems right down the line. The more we talk about it, we see there is a lot more involved. I think the proposal should be sent through the [full planning and zoning] system."
Mayor Gordon agreed. "We're going to go through the [zoning] process, but keep an open mind," he said.
Parks said that Truck City can now file for a text amendment to change the city's zoning ordinances to allow for the OTB parlor.
The city's planning commission would then consider the request and probably make a recommendation to the Mayor and aldermen by early January.
But there are time constraints to be considered. Laurel-Pimlico operator Joe De Francis has said he would like to have the first OTB parlor in operation by Jan. 1, before the state begins a new lotto game, called "Quick-Draw" Keno, on Jan. 4.
Parks said any business wanting to open a Keno site in Frederick will probably also have to go through the same type of zoning review.
Tom Lattanzi, director of corporate sales for Laurel-Pimlico, said the tracks are considering other sites in the city of Frederick as well as Frederick County.
"We are not here to support them [Truck City]," Lattanzi said. "But just to listen and answer any questions about satellite simulcasting the council might have."
Parks said that the county has already told her that, unlike the city, they will allow the "accessory" use provision in considering zoning for OTB sites in Frederick County locations.
That could give De Francis added impetus to open an OTB site outside the city of Frederick.
Lattanzi said the meeting yesterday was the second municipal board to hear a zoning request for an OTB facility.
He added that the Cambridge City Council in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore gave preliminary approval Monday for an OTB parlor to be located in a motel-restaurant complex on Route 50 in Cambridge.