Horseplay over Redskins stadium

June 14, 1994

The temptation for officials in Howard County to hold sway over whether a new Redskins football stadium will be built just over the boundary in Anne Arundel County must be great. That's the only way to fathom the county planning board's recent decision to oppose a proposed zoning change for Laurel Race Course that would allow stables for 1,000 horses to be shifted from land in Anne Arundel County to Howard. The move would make way for a parking lot for the stadium, but a loose coalition of Howard residents opposes both the stables and the stadium.

While the planning board's vote is only advisory, it raises hopes among residents that Howard may play some pivotal role in scuttling the stadium project. That is a misguided view.

If there is a Redskins stadium in Laurel, it will be because state and Anne Arundel County officials want it there. It is improbable that Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke has hinged his plans on whether some stables can be moved to Howard County. It is more likely that the Redskins would simply keep the stables where they are and make use of the Howard land for what is already intended, a parking lot.

That could prove more disastrous for Howard County than having the stables. Traffic generated by a Redskins' parking facility would strain the county's infrastructure, while bringing with it none of the benefits that the stables would generate in the form of increased tax revenue. Current estimates put those revenues at $10 million annually.

The planning board's recommendation also puts the County Council members in a political bind. It is their duty to consider the race course proposal in their capacity as the county Zoning Board. No council member up for re-election relishes fighting constituents who think Howard is getting a raw deal here.

Remarks such as the recent ones from planning board chairwoman Joan Lancos, who lamented that Anne Arundel was getting a sports complex while Howard was getting the horse manure, are nothing better than senseless pandering.

That kind of rhetoric needlessly raises people's expectations by suggesting there is something Howard County can leverage from this situation that will match a stadium, which the county has shown no inclination of wanting in the first place. Howard County would be best served if its officials negotiate an agreement that would make the stables a more palatable option.

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