Bowie laser tag business wins parking battle -- Gazette.Net


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A popular entertainment spot in Bowie will remain open, thanks to a city waiver allowing the laser tag center to bypass Prince George’s County parking rules that may have shuttered the business.

“This has been a long journey. I’m just so thrilled they could come to a reasonable outcome ... I feel a whole lot of relief today,” Cherie Hope, owner of Castle Laser Tag and Silver Star Gymnastics, said of the 18-month-long battle.

Hope opened both businesses in 2008 at 14201 Woodcliff Court, and employs 115 people. Last year, county inspectors visited the property after a customer complaint and redesignated the laser tag business an “amusement center,” Hope said. She had been operating both businesses under one “private school” permit.

The new permit required the 8,000-square-foot portion of the building that houses the laser tag center to provide 137 parking spaces, an issue for Hope as the site has 37 spaces and there is no available surrounding land to add more.

Without the laser tag center, which grosses $500,000 per year, Hope said she wouldn’t be able to pay her mortgage and would have to close both of her Bowie businesses, so she asked Bowie officials to waive the county’s requirement.

Bowie has authority over the development of parking spaces, said Frank Stevens, the city’s senior planner.

For nearly two hours, the city’s planning board listened to testimony from Hope, her attorney, employees and customers who said Hope’s businesses were vital entertainment venues in Bowie.

The planning board, which advises the City Council on zoning changes or site plans, unanimously approved the parking-space exemption, but the approval stands only if Hope reached a verbal agreement to share parking spaces with the owners of two surrounding parking lots if Castle Laser Tag needs more, said board member Lisa Avery, in announcing the board’s decision.

Hope and the owner of the two lots, Tina Santos, who was also at the meeting, said they already have this verbal agreement and have been sharing parking lots since Castle Laser Tag opened.

Kenny Minor Jr., 40, of Waldorf, who manages the laser tag center on weekends, said he was ecstatic about the board’s approval.

“I was a little worried when I first heard what was going on,” Minor said. “I have a 7-year-old and a 3-week-old, so the possibility of something changing in my job weighed heavily on me.”

spetit@gazette.net