BOWIE – The Bowie City Council wants the racetrack property to once again be worthy of a Triple Crown. On Monday, the council voted 6-0 in support of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city, the 23rd Legislative District Delegation and the Southern Maryland Agricultural Association (SMAA), owners of the Bowie Training Center on […]
BOWIE – The Bowie City Council wants the racetrack property to once again be worthy of a Triple Crown.
On Monday, the council voted 6-0 in support of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the city, the 23rd Legislative District Delegation and the Southern Maryland Agricultural Association (SMAA), owners of the Bowie Training Center on Race Track Road. The agreement, signed by Mayor G. Frederick Robinson Tuesday morning, details steps SMAA must take to improve the property, which neighbors have complained is an eyesore since the horses were removed in 2015.
“During this particular legislative session, the delegation, led by Sen. (Douglas) Peters and his peers, worked with the owners of this particular property to develop an MOU, with their own compliance – and voluntary compliance, I might add – to bring the property up to standards,” said City Manager Alfred Lott.
The council expressed the strong need for better upkeep on the property, which is located near one of the main entrances to Bowie State University and the city itself. Single-family homes and a community park border various sections of the property.
The MOU lasts for 26 months and requires SMAA to remove vegetation from the infield of the race track portion of the property and maintain all grass and pastures at no more than 12 inches high within 45 days. It must also apply for any permits needed to begin installation of a screened fence along the section of the property along Race Track Road that houses the stables and to begin repairs to the covered bridge on Race Track Road.
Within 120 days, the owners must apply for permits and begin to install a “premium fence” along the race track side of the property (the designs for that fencing must have been submitted to the city and the delegation for approval prior to the permits being issued). SMAA may apply for state funds to help cover the cost of the fence, but if they do not receive those funds are still obligated to construct the fence.
Within a year, SMAA will begin discussions about selling portions of the property not planned for future stable buildings to the city of Bowie and the portion of the property fronting the Patuxent River to the Maryland National Capital Parks and Planning Commission.
If the city of Bowie determines the conditions in the MOU are not met, it shall notify SMAA and give them a “reasonable opportunity” to comply. After that, SMAA will be fined $500 a day until it is back in compliance with the MOU, with a maximum fine of $10,000.
“I don’t know if this is the be-all and end-all, but it’s certainly better than it is,” Mayor Robinson said.
Councilman Michael Esteve agreed.
“I think I speak for everybody in Saddlebrook East and West when I say that they’re sick of this,” he said. “I certainly agree with the mayor that it’s about time something happens.”
Esteve did ask staff if the $10,000 maximum penalty for non-compliance with the MOU was high enough.
“Do we think that’s adequate to really compel them into action? I don’t know how moneyed these guys are,” he asked.
Lott said in his opinion, $10,000 was “a very strong fine,” and said SMAA had been very cooperative during the process of drafting the MOU.
“I would be surprised if that was an issue. They seem to be rather surprised and embarrassed that they were called to task on this. So I think they’ll comply,” Lott said.
Although no representatives of SMAA were present at the council meeting, SMAA President Sal Sinatra did testify before the General Assembly Ways and Means committee on Feb. 15, when legislation that would have allowed the state to condemn the property was up for discussion. The bill has not moved out of the committee and is unlikely to pass with the MOU in place.
“I do want to apologize to both the mayor and the community for the condition of Bowie (Race Track),” Sinatra said. “By no means do I want that to be an eyesore to the community.”
He said at that time that he had already hired contractors to begin clean-up work on the property. Sinatra also said he intended to return horses to the property, either to house them while Pimlico Race Track is renovated or as a quarantine farm.