Clergymen protest stadium

August 11, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Sun Staff Writer

A proposed Redskins football stadium in Laurel would prevent people from worshiping on game days and degrade the quality of life in the area, a procession of clergymen testified during yesterday's public hearing on the stadium.

"The traffic problems are going to be humongous for us, as a church," said the Rev. John P. Carter, pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church, located about a third of a mile from the stadium site on Whiskey Bottom Road.

The stadium would also raise property values in Bacontown, driving his parishioners away, he said. And he predicted problems of drinking, drug abuse and prostitution along Whiskey Bottom Road would be exacerbated by the stadium.

"Suggestions by some that congregation members will 'get used to the traffic' or that worship times can be changed to accommodate the Redskins' schedule are both offensive and, more significantly, totally impractical," said a statement from the Laurel Clergy Association.

The includes 19 local religious communities of several faiths. The Rev. Kevin McGhee, senior pastor of Bethany Community Church in Laurel, read the statement.

The association recommended several conditions, including not scheduling events before 2 p.m. on Sundays and keeping stadium traffic off local roads, including U.S. 1, Routes 198, 197 and 216, Brock Bridge Road and Whiskey Bottom Road.

"No plans should be approved if such approval will severely jeopardize the viability of even one congregation," Mr. McGhee read.

Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke is seeking a special exception that would allow a $160 million National Football League stadium in an industrial zone east of Laurel in Anne Arundel County. The Redskins are also hoping for variances from county codes on matters such as parking and landscaping for the 78,600-seat stadium.

Mr. McGhee, who has studied church growth, said stadium traffic would be a psychological barrier that would scare some people out of trying to reach church on Sunday mornings.

For others, he said, traffic would be a physical barrier. And for some, such as Maryland City residents who worship at Resurrection of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church, a half-mile north of the stadium site on Brock Bridge Road, the stadium itself would become a geographical barrier between them and ** their place of worship.

Walter Lynch, the Redskins' project manager for the stadium, said Maryland City residents traveling to the Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic Church would have "at the very most" a 10-minute delay each way on game days.

"We're obviously sensitive to the concerns of the clergy, and always have been," said Redskins spokesman Alan Rifkin. "There is an understandable fear of the unknown and a change in the status quo."

The Rev. Joseph Kitko, pastor of the Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic Church, said the Redskins' traffic studies assume 25 percent of local traffic would avoid the stadium area on game days. If 25 percent of his parishioners avoided the roads on game days, he said, 100 families would miss worship.

He read a statement from the Most Rev. William C. Newman, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore, who suggested that Mr. Cooke find an alternative stadium site that would affect fewer residential areas.

"The income loss will be terrible, because people will go elsewhere," said audience member John Raeder Sr., who attends the Resurrection of Our Lord Catholic Church. "It is going to be a tremendous blow to that particular church."

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