Moves to halt stadium hearing denied

July 11, 1994|By Katherine Richards and John Rivera | Katherine Richards and John Rivera,Sun Staff Writers

Opponents of an NFL stadium in Laurel lost two legal challenges today in efforts to derail the zoning hearing.

Anne Arundel County Adminis trative Hearing Officer Robert C. Wilcox rejected claims that the Redskins were not registered to do business in Maryland when the zoning application was filed in April.

He also turned aside a challenge to the application itself.

Thomas Dernoga, a lawyer for Citizens Against the Stadium II, asked Mr. Wilcox to throw out Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke's zoning applications because his organization, Jack Kent Cooke Inc., was not registered with the state, according to tax records.

"We believe that to continue these hearings would be a violation of public policy," Mr. Dernoga said.

However, Redskins lawyer Harry Blumenthal replied that last Friday Mr. Cooke transferred rights to pursue the application to Maryland City Acquisitions Corp., which is registered to do business in Maryland.

Mr. Wilcox told Mr. Dernoga his argument was weak. "At best it's held together by bubble gum and paper clips," he said.

Mr. Dernoga then challenged the signature of County Executive Robert R. Neall on the Redskins' application. Mr. Neall signed the application because the county owns Brock Bridge Road, which abuts the stadium site. Landowners' signatures are required on the application.

Mr. Dernoga argued that a public hearing on the status of Brock Bridge Road must precede the zoning hearing.

Mr. Wilcox said such a hearing could be held after the zoning issue is decided.

The Redskins' lawyer scoffed at the opponent's legal maneuvers. "It's much ado about nothing. This is just lawyering by people who are looking to delay the case," said Mr. Blumenthal.

Mr. Dernoga said the denial of his motion was in a sense good news for stadium opponents because it gives them grounds to appeal the case.

About 200 supporters and opponents of Mr. Cooke's proposed 78,600-seat stadium gathered in the auditorium at Meade Senior High School for the beginning of the zoning hearing that is expected to take at least a week.

Opponents wore T-shirts that read "Stop the Stadium in Laurel," while supporters sported buttons reading "Touchdown in Laurel."

Anne Arundel County planning officials say they generally approve of the proposed $160 million stadium. The county is withholding full approval because of concern over assumptions in the Redskins' traffic study and insufficient information on the impact lighting and noise will have on the neighborhood, county sources said.

Planners will ask Mr. Wilcox to look closely at the Redskins' traffic study, which says car pools and mass transit -- including 200 luxury charter buses and MARC trains -- will allow the team to achieve an occupancy rate of 3.5 fans per automobile.

The team needs to reach that goal because only 20,077 parking spaces will be provided.

Anne Arundel officials said they have no basis for evaluating the study's claims because no other NFL stadium has similar conditions that will be faced in Laurel.

Planners said they have asked the Redskins for studies of how lighting and noise from the stadium will affect the neighborhood, but have not received the reports.

Planners said without that information, they could not give an unqualified endorsement.

Walter Lynch, the team's project manager, was pleased to learn about the partial endorsement.

"That's big news," he said. "Obviously, you always hope for the best, but you just don't know, and I couldn't get any indication out of Bobby Neall.

"What a surprise," was the sarcastic reaction of Jeanne Mignon, president of Citizens Against the Stadium II, who expected the county's recommendation.

"It's a bad plan, they know it's a bad plan. I hope Mr. Wilcox looks very critically at what's out here and uses good judgment.

"The specs speak for themselves. This thing does not fit where they want to put it."

The Redskins need the special exception to build the stadium in an industrial zone. They also have asked for variances to county laws governing parking, landscaping and time to complete the project.

Kevin Dooley, a county planner, will present Anne Arundel's response to the Redskins' application.

The county agrees with the Redskins' request to reduce the number of parking spaces by nearly half to the 20,077, as well as three variances to extend the time allotted to complete the project.

Planners oppose the Redskins' request to reduce the width of parking spaces from 9 feet to 8 feet. But the Redskins' Mr. Lynch said the county code on parking spaces is based on businesses such as shopping malls, where parking is unsupervised.

"There are a number of parking spaces around the NFL that are 8 feet," Mr. Lynch said.

The parking spaces will be used 10 to 18 times a year and people will be directed where to park. "We just see it as environmentally sound to reduce the amount of asphalt," Mr. Lynch said.

County planners also said they don't want large expanses of asphalt at the stadium. They plan to ask the Redskins to modify their plan to put required landscaping in several concentrated buffers, instead of interspersed in islands throughout the parking lot.

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