Parking quota reduced for proposed stadium

May 15, 1994|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Sun Staff Writer

Anne Arundel County's top zoning officer has cut by one quarter -- spaces for 10,000 cars -- the amount of parking needed by the Washington Redskins for a new 78,600-seat stadium the team wants to build in Laurel.

The quietly made administrative move reduced the number of spaces required to 30,000 -- still more than the Redskins want to provide, but nevertheless an easing of standards the team must meet for the stadium to be approved.

Stadium opponents were quick to criticize the decision, complaining that the county never gave the public a chance to comment on the decision.

"If they are going to give the store away before we ever get to a hearing, what's the sense of going?" asked Ray Smallwood, president of the Maryland City Civic Association. "They should get citizen input before they ever give away concessions."

County zoning law requires one parking space for every two seats, which means the proposed stadium would need about 40,000 spaces to conform. But Robert J. Dvorak, the director of the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement, wrote in a letter that he thought that amount "would be unnecessary and detrimental to the environment."

The Redskins, who want to provide 20,000 spaces, still will have to persuade a hearing officer on July 11 that they should be allowed to provide less parking than the law requires. But now, they only have to ask for a 10,000-space reduction.

Mr. Dvorak made his decision in a letter sent to the Redskins traffic consultant, Martin Wells, the day after the team filed its zoning application and traffic report with Anne Arundel County on April 20.

In the letter, Mr. Dvorak wrote that county law allows him to reduce the required number of parking spaces up to 25 percent "if it can be proven that the facility to be served is unique and would not in its day-to-day operation normally require a full complement of parking."

The Redskins traffic report says the stadium will be used only 18 days a year for professional football games and other selected sporting events. At other times, only 100 parking spaces will be needed for employees.

Walter E. Lynch, the Redskins project manager, said the team wants a reduced number of parking spaces to encourage car-pooling and the use of public transportation.

"I think it's very common to have a 25 percent reduction," Mr. Lynch said. "It answers a lot of concerns that we heard from the community. They want traffic reduced. The best way to reduce traffic is obviously to reduce cars."

Mary Lehman, a spokeswoman for Citizens Against the Stadium II, conceded that Mr. Dvorak has the authority to reduce the number of required parking spaces, but she said "it would be nice to consult the public every now and then."

"They seem to be doing everything they can to undermine public involvement."

Ms. Lehman accused the county and the Redskins of "working hand in hand."

"They are arm in arm with [team owner] Jack Kent Cooke. It is sickening. This billionaire builder from Virginia gets treated better than the taxpayers from Anne Arundel County," she said.

While Mr. Smallwood said he favors a reduction in parking spaces at the stadium, he complained that Mr. Dvorak made his decision before seeing how the Redskins plan to keep fans from parking in residential neighborhoods, as they have promised to do.

D. Craig Horn, president of Citizens for a Planned Stadium in Laurel, applauded Mr. Dvorak's decision, saying he is happy that county officials will not force the Redskins to provide 40,000 parking spaces.

"As a proponent of the stadium, I want to see this thing move on," Mr. Horn said. "Let someone make a decision and keep moving. I think this decision is in the best interests of Laurel."

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