PORT TOBACCO -- Residents living near the Port Tobacco Marina expressed virulent opposition yesterday to the 22-acre restaurant-bar-boating facility becoming the site of the state's fifth off-track betting parlor.
"What you are going to do is irrevocably destroy the character of a quiet, residential community if you grant this license," Geoffrey Heath, a spokesman for the Port Tobacco-Riviera Civic Association told members of the Maryland Racing Commission, who gathered at the site yesterday to hear public sentiment.
The marina is at the end of a two-lane road lined by residential properties in rural Charles County about five miles west of La Plata.
Heath said residents are "nearly unanimous in opposition" to the proposal. He cited traffic, zoning and environmental problems as among reasons why the license should be rejected. About 50 angry residents signed up to speak in opposition to the OTB.
Vincent "Cap" Mona, proprietor of the marina, said he is seeking a parimutuel license to revive sagging food and beverage sales at his restaurant and said that an OTB is "the shot in the arm this county needs."
According to documents filed in Mona's application, the marina site is zoned for "commercial village" purposes, which would include its use as a horse-race betting outlet.
Mona said the facility initially would employ about 50 extra persons if it is converted to a gambling operation.
Racing commission chairman Allan Levey said: "The residents made a definite impact on the commission. We'll discuss the matter in the next couple of days.
"The opposition was a vast majority of the neighbors that are very concerned. The whole commission was impressed by how organized and how much time they had spent investigating other OTBs and things such as their traffic patterns."
Levey added that the board's decision will be announced "within the next two weeks."
Other Maryland OTBS are located in Urbana, North East, Cambridge and at a restaurant located on a pier in the Maryland portion of the Potomac River in Colonial Beach, Va.