Dumfries Council Kills Racetrack Plan
The Dumfries Town Council killed a controversial plan that would have brought horse racing to Northern Virginia yesterday, heeding public opposition to a racetrack proposed by Colonial Downs Inc.
The council voted 4 to 2 to reject the special-use permit Colonial Downs was seeking to build a steeplechase track atop a commercial landfill off Interstate 95 in Prince William County.
Colonial Downs runs the state's only racetrack, a financially ailing operation south of Richmond. The company had said a Dumfries venture would make it profitable, but track opponents mounted a massive grass-roots campaign to defeat the project, calling gambling immoral.
Prince William officials are considering another racetrack proposed by Middleburg businessman James J. Wilson for 220 acres near the Fauquier County line. The Virginia Racing Commission, which would issue any track license, is scheduled to vote next week on both proposals, but without approval from Dumfries, the Colonial Downs track is effectively dead.
A Toast to Alcohol Appreciation
While many Virginia colleges have been trying to curb student drinking after the deaths of five students in alcohol-related incidents in recent years, a new club at the College of William and Mary aims to convey an appreciation of alcohol, according to organizer Tim Wittig.
Wittig, 21, said he believes that if students are knowledgeable about drinking, they'll enjoy it more and abuse it less. The club is called Spirits of William and Mary and unofficially dubbed the Drinking Society. Wittig said: "I wouldn't call it an excuse to drink. More like an opportunity."
Mixing martinis, throwing cocktail parties and choosing a fine wine are some of the topics discussed at club meetings on the Williamsburg campus. Meetings are open to all, but only those 21 and older can drink.
William and Mary Vice President Sam Sadler said Wittig's group is allowed on campus as long as it follows university rules and state law. But recognition of the group as an official campus club does not mean the university endorses the group or gives it money.
At the University of Virginia, where this is Alcohol Awareness Week, students also have a new group this year. The group, called Fourth Years Ending Stupid Traditions, is seeking to squelch a decade-old autumnal rite in Charlottesville known as the "fourth-year fifth," in which some fourth-year students down a fifth of alcohol on the day of the last home football game.
Residents Can Sign Up for Summit
District residents who want to participate in a day-long summit to discuss priorities for their neighborhoods and the city in general may register for the event now, Mayor Anthony A. Williams's administration says.
The summit at the Washington Convention Center will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 20. It will include sessions in which participants, sitting in groups of 10, will discuss a range of city issues and then express their opinions through a computerized voting system.
Peggy Armstrong, a spokeswoman for Williams (D), said yesterday that about 600 residents already have signed up for the summit. The mayor's office is prepared to accommodate as many as 2,500 participants but will make further arrangements if more people sign up. Registration also will be held at the convention center the morning of the summit.
The summit is one of two events kicking off Williams's Neighborhood Action program, which will include several forums designed to allow residents to help city officials shape policy.
Election Change Approved in Pr. George's
The Prince George's County Council approved a measure yesterday requiring that both primary and general elections be held to fill a council vacancy.
Council member Thomas R. Hendershot (D-New Carrollton) said he proposed the change so Republican candidates would not be able to capitalize on a split vote for Democratic contenders in the one election that had been required. He said he also wanted to end the confusion that having one election created with voters.
Council member Audrey E. Scott (R-Bowie) called the measure "bad policy, bad legislation" and said it "plays to the special interest of one party." She was joined in opposition by two Democrats on the council, Dorothy F. Bailey (Temple Hills) and Walter H. Maloney (Beltsville).
Alligator Rescued From House
When something seems wrong with the stove and the house appears about to catch fire, that is not the time for the alligator to escape. But that happened last night in Mount Rainier.
Prince George's County firefighters quickly brought everything under control at the house in the 4200 block of 28th Street. They realized that what was thought to be a fire was not and slammed the bathroom door on the wandering gator and waited for animal control.
Capt. Chauncey Bowers, a fire department spokesman, said the call that sent the firefighters to the house may have stemmed from a misunderstanding about the working of the stove.
After taping the gator's jaws shut, animal control took it away. But that was just to hold it for its owner, Bowers said. Possession of the 2- to 3-foot-long animal is legal in Prince George's, he said.
Montgomery Firm Loses Legal Round
Neutron Products Inc., the Montgomery County maker of radioactive components for medical equipment, lost a round yesterday in its legal battle with Maryland environmental officials.
Circuit Court Judge Nelson W. Rupp Jr. decided not to grant an injunction sought by Neutron and rejected the company's arguments that the Maryland Department of the Environment is seeking to enforce regulations that are vague and unconstitutional.
The company has been cited repeatedly by the state for improper handling of hazardous radioactive material. The state has sued Neutron for allegedly failing to show that it has adequate assets to pay for the facility's decommissioning. Meanwhile, the environmental department's attorneys are seeking a permanent injunction against Neutron requiring that the Dickerson company receive no additional radioactive material, shut down core operations and submit a plan for decommissioning. Complying would put the company out of business, Neutron officials say.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"The freezing and thawing will create some monster potholes. Given the amount of cable they're laying, if we have anything less than a mild winter, we're going to have potholes that will do some real damage to vehicles."
-- Lon Anderson, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, on winter prospects for D.C. streets dug up for burial of miles of telecommunications cable.