How Much Parking Do 'Skins Need?

June 01, 1994

The ordinance that defines parking requirements in Anne Arundel County is so restrictive that the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement routinely waives it. So why doesn't somebody change the law?

Anne Arundel Planning Director Robert J. Dvorak has been assailed by opponents of the proposed Redskins stadium in Laurel for reducing the required number of parking spaces. He says the Redskins aren't being treated differently from other developers. This is true. The Russett Center community, Chartwell Country Club, the Annapolis Harbour Center and other projects all have been granted parking "credits," because the parking law is unnecessarily strict.

Anne Arundel requires one parking space for every two stadium seats, compared to Baltimore City (one space for every six seats), Prince George's, Montgomery and Baltimore counties (one for every four seats) and Howard County (one for three).

Most projects do not need this much parking. The commercial corridor along Ritchie Highway from Severna Park to Glen Burnie is a virtual ocean of surface parking that sits empty most of the time. Many of these lots aren't even full at Christmas-time.

All that asphalt is ugly, expensive and bad for the environment. So the county has good reasons for using a provision in the law allowing parking credits. And, it has good reason for granting a credit to the stadium, which otherwise would need 39,300 spaces -- 11,300 more than necessary according to a state study estimating an average of almost three riders per car.

Stadium opponents question those figures, but they seem reasonable considering that a MARC train station sits next to the proposed stadium. Also, the experience at Oriole Park at Camden Yards shows people who may not use mass transit for anything else will use it for recreational purposes.

The problem the county faces with the Redskins' waiver is that it looks bad. Given this project's size and controversial nature, the county would have been wise to have waited until public zoning hearings in July before granting the credit.

But the main criticism of the parking waiver -- that it proves the county is in league with the Redskins -- doesn't wash because the waivers have been granted so many times before.

That's because the law doesn't make practical sense. This fiasco shows it needs to be changed.

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