Members fear stadium traffic may threaten church's survival

March 15, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

Traffic to a proposed Redskins stadium in Laurel could strangle attendance at a nearby Catholic church, some church leaders fear.

"This will kill us as a church," said the Rev. Joseph F. Kitko, pastor of the Resurrection of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church on Brock Bridge Road.

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke wants to build a 78,600-seat football stadium a little less than a mile south of the church.

"Its purpose is for entertainment and profit," Father Kitko said of the stadium. "And here we are, a church -- a necessity."

Father Kitko said game traffic could discourage churchgoers from attending noon Mass, the 1 p.m. baptisms, and the parish council meetings that begin at 1:30 p.m.

"If a game starts at 12:30 or 1 o'clock, what can we do with a 12 o'clock Mass?" he asked.

Walter Lynch, project manager for Redskins stadium, said he has scheduled a meeting with church leaders in early April. "We're going to try to figure out a new traffic pattern with them," he said.

Father Kitko said Redskins spokesman Terry St. Marie met with the parish council in January and suggested that the church reschedule activities to accommodate the football schedule. Mr. Lynch said Mr. St. Marie had misspoken.

A stadium on Brock Bridge Road would be "very, very disruptive," to the Catholic community, said Ray Szyperski, a lay member of the church corporation.

Like about half the 500 families of the church, he lives in Maryland City. He said it takes him about seven minutes to get to church now.

The drive could be extended to half an hour if traffic from a new stadium makes Brock Bridge Road impassable, he said.

Mr. Szyperski said some church members may decide to attend St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, which is closer to them.

Father Kitko said the stadium also might bring crime to the area and reduce property values. He said it is causing some parishioners to consider moving out of the area.

The church was built in 1970 in hopes of attracting members from new housing developments such as Russett, he said. If parishioners leave because of the stadium and Russett is not completed, the results "would break our back," he said.

Father Kitko also said a moral issue is involved. The Redskins have no right to choose an option -- such as the Laurel site -- that will hurt others unless all other possible options have been exhausted, he said.

Mr. Szyperski suggested that the Redskins consider a site on Interstate 95 just south of Route 198. This option wouldn't disrupt neighborhoods as much, he said.

Mr. Lynch said the proposed stadium will not be relocated.

The site is zoned to allow an industrial use such as a stadium, and no matter where it is put, "it will always be a disruption to somebody," he said.

Citizens may express their concerns at a public hearing that will be scheduled when the Redskins file zoning papers, said Robert Dvorak, director of planning and code enforcement for Anne Arundel County. He said the hearing officer may consider whether the stadium poses an inconvenience or a serious problem for the church, and whether parishioners could use alternative routes, such as Whiskey Bottom Road.

A traffic study released by the state and Anne Arundel County last week said stadium traffic might be prohibited from using Whiskey Bottom Road between Route 198 and Brock Bridge Road.

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