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Ecker to seek Sunday car sales


Responding to requests from a car dealer that wants to build in the Savage area and another already in Clarksville, Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker will ask state politicians to allow Sunday car sales.

The move would help Howard County dealers that compete with dealers in Prince George's and Montgomery counties -- the only counties in the state where dealers can sell cars on Sundays.

"I hate to force people out of the county to do business," Mr. Ecker said yesterday.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for electronics giant Circuit City said the company wants to build a CarMax used-car mega-store on the old Freestate race course just south of Savage. The company, which has signed a letter saying it intends to buy 46 acres of the 108-acre site, would like to sell cars on Sundays as well as on other days.

The company has asked Mr. Ecker to propose changing the law to allow Sunday sales, the county executive said. Win Kelly Chevrolet of Clarksville made the same request, he said.

One state legislator is concerned about the mega-store coming to the area.

"I'm not sure that I'm thrilled about Freestate becoming the used-car capital of Maryland," said state Sen. Martin G. Madden, a Republican who represents the area in and around Savage. He favors retail developments such as grocery and drug stores.

Mr. Madden and other county lawmakers say they will consider the county executive's request as they formulate this year's legislative package.

Car dealers in the area expressed mixed opinions about opening on Sundays.

Mark Walzer, president of abc rent a car in Columbia, wants to open. "It's none of the state's business when a business chooses to be open or when a consumer chooses to shop," he said.

Brian Schwenk, the general manager of O'Donnell Honda in Ellicott City, said that "it's only a matter of time" before the law is changed to allow Sunday car sales. But he said that until then, sales people will continue to enjoy their days off.

"If everybody is forced to be closed, then everybody is happy," he said.

Mr. Schwenk said some customers like the no-sale Sundays because they can wander around closed car lots with no sales people.

"It's easy for people, and people like that," he said.

For the law to be changed, the legislators who represent the county would have to agree to introduce such legislation in this year's General Assembly, which convenes in January. Most such local bills are approved by the legislature.

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