Group tries to put brakes on car racetrack proposal


The Indy cars zoom around the track. Engines rev and backfire. Loudspeakers blare.

The scene is repeated over and over.

The audience watching the videotape observes and listens intently.

"This is what it will be like," the group is told.

The 125 observers were at the meeting Wednesday to get information about the proposed Maryland Motorsports Park in Havre de Grace. The videotape was only part of the agenda.

"Our purpose is to share some of the information that we have learned," said moderator Lois Wright, sporting a button imprinted with a race car with a slash through it.

The program, at Webster Congregational Christian Church near Havre de Grace, was sponsored by Citizens Against Racetrack (CAR). The organization was formed in July after residents of the Havre de Grace area heard about developer D. Richard Rothman's proposal to build a racetrack in their back yard.

"We were totally flabbergasted," Ms. Wright said. "We're trying to find out what the developer is going to do."

Mr. Rothman, 55, president of Suburban Homes in Baltimore, is working on the project with Jim Tevebaugh, a design engineer.

Mr. Rothman, who races vintage cars as a hobby, said Thursday that he has six partners, but he declined to name them.

That is a point of contention with the CAR group.

"Are there silent, local partners?" wondered committee member Sally Woomert.

A glossy brochure Mr. Rothman is using describes the proposed venture as a $10 million multipurpose motor sports complex on 550 acres off U.S. 40, just beyond the city limits. It would include a 2.5-mile road course designed to specifications that would suit everything from vintage cars to Indy, stock and Formula One cars, plus an amphitheater for music festivals and picnicking areas.

Mr. Rothman has an option to buy the property, zoned industrial/residential and agricultural. The developers want Havre de Grace to annex the tract so that local zoning can be amended to accommodate the racetrack.

Mr. Rothman sent a letter of intent July 20 to Havre de Grace Mayor Gunther Hirsch. The developers must acquire additional property before they make a formal annexation request. The land must be contiguous to the city as a condition of annexation.

"We're in . . . a holding pattern," Mr. Rothman said last week.

The developers also must wait for a report by a 14-member task force appointed by Dr. Hirsch.

The task force will report its findings to the Havre de Grace City Council in four to six months. If the council decides in favor of annexing the land, Harford County Council action on a waiver for a zoning change also will be required.

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