Wrong way to fight a stadium

May 20, 1994

The proposal to build a Redskins football stadium in Laurel doesn't make much sense, at least from a planning standpoint. But neither does the latest plan for killing the stadium.

Citizens Against the Stadium II is out to drum up support for an amendment to the Anne Arundel charter that would bar the use of public money for the project. If CATSII succeeds, the amendment would appear on the election ballot in November.

But the amendment is the wrong weapon for fighting this project.

It's too far-reaching. It would block the use of tax money, not only for the Redskins stadium, but for any stadium or arena that seats at least 25,000. Not only now, but forever. CATSII has decided Anne Arundel will never want such a facility. But what if one day the Naval Academy wants to replace Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium? Or if the Bowie Baysox wish to move across the line into Anne Arundel? Such projects might be in the county's best interests, yet the charter amendment would make county support impossible.

The decision to spend tax dollars for stadiums or anything else belongs in the hands of the administrators and lawmakers we elect to do that job. The place to oppose the use of public money for the Redskins stadium is before the county executive and the County Council.

Stadium opponents argue that public officials cannot be trusted. They say the county betrayed residents by easing parking space requirements for the Laurel stadium without public input. They claim that is evidence of a sweetheart deal between local government and the Redskins.

In fact, it's the same "deal" the county, which has the most rigid parking standards in the region, has given other builders: for example, the Annapolis Mall and Chartwell Country Club.

Moreover, the 29,475 spaces the county would require is in line with the findings of a state study generally approved by residents.

Opponents of the stadium will have ample opportunity to make their case against the project in July, when hearings will be held on the Redskins' formal request for a zoning special exception and variances.

And they can exert pressure on the executive and the council as persistently as they wish. These are the proper avenues for fighting the stadium, not a charter amendment that hamstrings future generations and takes away from elected officials the responsibility to spend our money wisely.

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