Plan for stadium heads to hurdles in Anne Arundel

March 12, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Peter Hermann contributed to this article.

Now that Gov. William Donald Schaefer has dropped his objections to the Redskins stadium in Laurel, Anne Arundel County planners will get a look at it.

That suits local people, who have been waiting since late last year for specifics.

It could take a year or more for the Redskins to satisfy all of the county's zoning requirements. And then there's the almost-certain appeal of any decision.

Jack Kent Cooke's 78,600-seat stadium next to the Laurel Race Course in Anne Arundel County would cost $160 million. It would require $52 million to $186 million in road improvements, according to a report issued Wednesday by the state and county.

The stadium is permitted on the site as a special exception, and the Redskins have said they will file with the county for the waiver within a few weeks.

Those papers will include a site plan, which will give everyone their first peek at what Mr. Cooke has in store for Laurel. The site plan will detail where the stadium and parking lots will be and how fans will get to their seats.

One potential bone of contention will be the number of parking spaces required by Anne Arundel County.

"Our code says one space for every two seats" or 39,300 parking spaces, says Robert Dvorak, director of planning and code enforcement for Anne Arundel County and its point man on the stadium project.

The Redskins plan to ask for a variance from this requirement, says Walter Lynch, project manager for the Redskins.

Their preliminary plan includes only 23,000 parking spaces -- and that number may drop by 1,000 spaces if parking lot plans have to be redrawn to avoid wetlands.

To get a variance, the Redskins must prove the parking is adequate, taking into account public transportation.

Another hurdle will be compliance with the Clean Air Act. The Redskins will have to demonstrate to county, state and federal agencies that stadium traffic will not add to air pollution in the Baltimore-Washington corridor.

Problem of wetlands

Wetlands cover more than 20 acres of the proposed stadium site. The team must either avoid them or "mitigate" by replacing any destroyed wetlands with new ones elsewhere.

Many local residents, even those recruited by the Redskins to advise them, are growing impatient with the lack of information.

Ray Smallwood, a stadium opponent selected by the Redskins to co-chair the Community Outreach Group, a community advisory board, complains that the Redskins haven't shown him any firm plans or numbers.

"I want to see some concrete stuff," Mr. Smallwood told Mr. Lynch at an outreach group meeting. "My grandkids are going to see it before I will."

Traffic near church

The Rev. Joseph F. Kitko, priest of the Resurrection of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church on Brock Bridge Road, says the stadium would prevent worshipers from reaching church on game days and bring crime to the area.

Like Mr. Smallwood, Father Kitko also says the Redskins have not been forthcoming.

"They're ignoring the people," says Father Kitko.

But that's not how it looks to Mr. Dvorak.

"I think they've been very open," says Mr. Dvorak. "From what I've seen of them, they've been very frank with people."

The Redskins have commissioned a traffic study -- but the outreach group was told Tuesday it won't see the results until the Redskins file their zoning application with Anne Arundel County.

"I take exception to that," Mr. Smallwood says. "This whole scenario needs citizen input, and they're not getting it. They're not asking for it."

But Bob DiPietro, co-chairman of the outreach group and a stadium supporter, says the Redskins can't be blamed for not distributing their traffic study if the study hasn't been finished.

"I think they're as forthcoming as they can be with the information that they have," says Mr. DiPietro, a developer.

Lengthy process

Mr. Lynch says final information on the whole project will become available in August or September, as the Anne Arundel County zoning process is ending. Until then, he says, all plans must be considered preliminary and likely to change.

Once the Redskins file their site plans in the next weeks, the county will hold a public hearing on the project within two to four months. A hearing officer then has 30 days to reach a decision.

An appeal may be filed with the county Board of Appeals within 30 days.

About three months after an appeal is filed, a hearing begins. That hearing may be conducted over several dates, spread over four to six months.

The board is supposed to reach a decision within 60 days of the hearing's end, but may ask for an extension. Extensions of several months are not unusual.

The Board of Appeals decision may be appealed to Circuit Court within 30 days. However, that court bases its decision on the record of the Board of Appeals, and hears no new evidence.

The Redskins may also need to seek approval from Howard County authorities if they decide to build stables for Laurel Race Course or parking lots on the Howard County side of the site.

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