Anne Arundel slots vote faces midnight deadline
When the Anne Arundel County Council turns its attention to slots Monday night, the most powerful player in the room might be the clock.
The county charter does not permit the council to vote past midnight. And that could become a real issue, with large numbers of both supporters and opponents mobilizing to testify on a zoning bill that would allow slots at Arundel Mills mall.
"It's going to be a free-for-all down here," said Councilman James Benoit (D-Crownsville), who predicted Sunday that a delay is as likely as any other outcome.
That would push off a vote on the zoning measure until the council's next meeting. The next scheduled regular meeting is Dec. 21.
The council convenes at 7 p.m. Under its rules, audience members are permitted two minutes apiece to weigh in on legislation on the hearing schedule.
Among those planning to pack the council chambers is a group called Stop Slots at Arundel Mills, whose members include homeowners in neighborhoods surrounding the mall. They have voiced concerns about traffic congestion and other downsides of a 4,750-machine slots casino.
"I am very proud of the community, and I am sure they will continue to show their opposition to this," said Rob Annicelli, the group's president.
Council members are also expecting a substantial number of supporters to turn out, including representatives of the mall and Cordish Cos., the Baltimore-based developer seeking to build and operate the casino.
Horse-racing industry representatives, who would prefer to see slots at Laurel Park racetrack, are also expected to weigh in, as are some teachers, union members and others who favor the mall plan.
There are different theories about who would be helped by a delay. The council will be operating Monday night without one of its members, Joshua J. Cohen (D), who is scheduled to be sworn in as Annapolis mayor earlier in the day.
Some suggest that waiting until Cohen is replaced increases the chances of securing the four votes needed on the seven-member council to pass the zoning bill.
That may be the thinking of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold (R). In an interview Friday, he said he remains "cautiously optimistic that by the end of the year we'll secure four votes." Cohen's replacement is scheduled to be on board Dec. 21.
Asked about his prospect for Monday night, Leopold said: "That may be more optimism than I'm prepared to offer at this point."
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