Representatives of the Marriott Corporation, whose orignal plans to build a large amusement park in Howard County Md., were rebuffed five years ago, have come back to county officials with a scaled-down proposal to build a theme park along I-95 about five miles east of Columbia.
The park, to be called "Great America" would occupy about 220 acres of a 500-acre tract, now owned by the Chase Manhattan Mortgage and Realty Trust, Marriott attorney Stephen A. West said yesterday.
He added that the park would be similar to the corporation's two other "Great Americas" which opened during the past year in San Francisco and Chicago areas.
tr for add one
Marriott's dicision to go back to Howard County after months of discussions with Virginia officials about putting a Great America park in Manassas was prompted by "changing conditions" in Howard County, West said. The maryland site now is preferred - if permssion can be obtained there - while the Virginia location may still be available should the company again encounter serious obstacles in Howard County.
The Manassas area proposal is still the subject of citizen opposition. A citizens group in Prince William County appeared in court yesterday to have declared invalid a four-year-old zoning change that allows Marriott to build its park there.
The Prince William County site is adjacent to Interstate 66, five miles west of Manassas. The proposal, among other things, called for an amusement park with Warner Bro thers characters likes Bugs Bunny, Tweety, Sylvester and Daffy Duck acting as guides, performing in live shows and being featured in rides similar to those at Disneyland.
"We'd always liked the Baltimore-Washington corridor as a location." West said. "We also felt several conditions in Howard had changed . . . We felt we found a site much more in compliance with the wishes of the county and the community."
Price George's County had been considered as a location, West added, but we felt this site was more midway between the two communities (Washington and Baltimore)."
The 500-acre tract of land where the corporation has proposed building a park is now unused, according to Peter Marron, an asset manager for the Chase Manhattan Realty Trust. West added that a single farmhouse still stands on the slightly rolling fields, which are bounded by industrial areas, a railroad, and the patuxent correctional institution.
The closest community to the proposed site is Gullford, a large black area of about 300 homes that predates the nearby "new town" of Columbia by decades.
West held a meeting with the Rev. John L. Wright, of the Gullford First Baptist Church, on Monday night, to discuss the amusement park proposal before his appearance before the county zoning board Tuesday evening.
"It's premature to give comments," Mr. Wright said yesterday. "It happened too fast. Perhaps there are some reservations, but right now we're just trying to get our thoughts together."
In Columbia, a center of opposition for the last park proposal, which would have included an animal safari park, a marine world park and shopping plaza, activist Lin Eagen said "people will be more inclined to look at a more limited proposal . . . the climate may have changed."
Mrs. Eagen, the president of the Columbia Democratic Club added; "People feel that other theme parks have been well done. They're not the monstrosities that they thought would be plunked down in the middle of Howard County. Before, the only model we had was Disney World."
She also pointed out the Marriott's is not the only amusement park proposal to come before the zoning board this week. The same evening as Marriott made its presentation, a group of local property owners made a separate proposal for an amusement park on a different piece of land, two miles south of the Chase Manhattan tract.
The Howard County Zoning Board, composed of all the county Council's members, will set up a special public hearing and get further details of both proposals before its decides whether or not to rezone the pieces of land for industrial use - a zone which, under Howard's new code, permits amusement parks.
Even if the Marriott Corp. gets the rezoning it wants on the Chase Manhattan tract, the County's Board of Appeals then has to grant a special permit to allow the area to be used for an amusement park," Zoning Board Chairman Lloyd Knowles said yesterday.
The theme of the Great America park, if it followed the pattern of its two predecessors, would revolve around five areas of America in the late 19th and early 20th century. Restaurants, rides and other entertainment forms would try to evoke that era in the Yukon, Cape, Cod, New Orleans, a Midwestern town and a hometown square.
Marriott attorney West said yesterday that the operation plans to make $75 million worth of improvements on the land. The park should attract 2.6 million customers annually, he said, and inject at least $26 million a year into the county's economy.