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Rehrmann, Hirsch oppose motor sports park


Two key politicians, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann and Havre de Grace Mayor Gunther D. Hirsch, said yesterday they do not support plans for a controversial $10 million motor sports park planned near Havre de Grace.

The "negatives of the proposed project outweigh the positives," Mrs. Rehrmann said in a statement. "The proposal is inconsistent with the county's land use plan and expectations of a meaningful economic return."

The proposed racetrack has sparked controversy in Havre de Grace, where some residents think it will bring excessive noise, traffic and pollution to the small city.

D. Richard Rothman, the track's developer, wants Havre de Grace to annex the 550-acre tract bordered by Route 40, approximately 1.5 miles from downtown Havre de Grace.

Mr. Hirsch said he waited for Mrs. Rehrmann's recommendation before making a decision.

"My conclusion is, I will not support the annexation of the Blenheim Farm for the use of a motor sports park in Havre de Grace," Mr. Hirsch said at a city hall news conference.

Despite the opposition, Mr. Rothman said he is going ahead with his plans.

"Right now we have in our office, 8,000 signatures in support of the park, from Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and Harford County," said Mr. Rothman, president of Suburban Homes in Timonium.

A vintage-car enthusiast, he envisions a racetrack that would draw fans from Maryland and surrounding states to watch vintage, Indianapolis-style and stock-car races 17 days a year. As many as 30,000 fans could sit in grandstands and on grassy hills overlooking the 2.5 mile course, which he hopes to open in 1996.

The park would also be the site of driving schools, concerts, festivals and other nonracing events.

"Our proposal will preserve a beautiful piece of land and a piece of history in Blenheim Mansion," he said. That's better than building thousands of houses there, he said.

But a racetrack would occupy too much land for the amount of jobs and economic benefit it would provide, according to county officials.

"What concerns me most is that a 250,000 square-foot facility that would employ 200 employees, such as Frito Lay, would generate as much revenue on 40 to 50 acres as would the proposed motor sports park on 550 acres," said Paul Gilbert, Harford's director of economic development.

The Havre de Grace City Council would have to approve the annexation of the property, and the County Council would have to allow the land to be used for a racetrack. Mr. Rothman said he would submit a petition for annexation within the next several weeks.

"We don't really have a proposal; that's the problem," said Anna Jones Long, city council president. She wants to know how traffic will be routed across railroad tracks and who will pay for water and sewerage to neighboring land that must be annexed.

"Until they are [answered] I could not support this," Mrs. Long said.

"I probably see this thing as failing to go any further," said Councilman John P. Correri Jr. "I don't see the city council passing it then without the support of the administration or even the county."

But Councilman Rene A. Lambert said he is not swayed by the mayor's or executives' positions.

"I have not made up my mind positively, but I'm still considering this as a very possible use for the land," Mr. Lambert said.

Councilman Henry J. Schreiber, who heads the annexation committee, said he's undecided about the park.

Other council members did not return telephone calls.

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