Developer may rethink racetrack; Bill before council would send proposal into lengthy hearings; Zoning process would change; Chesapeake says it will consider leaving area if measure passes


Developers trying to build a 61,000-seat stadium and racetrack south of Key Bridge in Pasadena said yesterday that they might have to pack up and give up if the County Council passes a controversial bill next month that would send them back to the beginning of the zoning process.

"If this bill is passed, we will have to stop and take a look at our options," said Robert Douglas, attorney for Chesapeake Motorsports Development Corp., adding that the group would consider leaving the Baltimore region entirely.

Potential sites near Baltimore-Washington International Airport and off Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie that the county considered as alternatives to the Pasadena location turned out to be too small and lacked sufficient buffer between the sites and residences.

Developers and county officials acknowledge that there are few other alternatives for an auto racetrack that requires at least 100 acres.

Monday, the County Council postponed voting on the bill that would define racetracks as "special exceptions," a zoning classification that would force Chesapeake to present its proposal at a hearing that could last months. Even if it won approval at that level, decisions could be appealed to Circuit Court.

Without the bill, Chesapeake may build as long as it meets 12 conditions the council laid out in April. A hearing officer would oversee those conditions.

Councilwoman A. Shirley Murphy said support on the council for the bill she sponsored is strong.

The council voted last night to amend the bill to allow Chesapeake to find parking away from the Pasadena site, something track opponents tried to avoid. Opponents argued that non-contiguous parking would bring buses and heavy traffic into the area and would scatter the project across the Pasadena peninsula.

But Douglas said if they can find parking in Baltimore and Baltimore County, fewer people would travel to Pasadena by car.

The council also voted to amend the wording of the bill which previously read that the county could force the developer to come up with "community benefits." The county auditor had said the language was ambiguous and unenforceable. That language was removed from the proposed legislation.

The council rejected an amendment by Councilman Bill Burlison that would require any racetrack in the county to be at least one mile from any home. A condition of last year's bill required that a racetrack be one mile from residentially zoned land. The residents living in houses within a mile of the proposed site live on land zoned for heavy industrial use.

Douglas said developers do not have plans for sites outside Baltimore and are still hoping the Pasadena site will work out. Last year, the group was moving forward on a proposal to build a "sister track" on land outside Chicago. But it let its option on that land expire, one of the organizers said at the time, when things began looking promising here.

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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