No stadium in Laurel

October 13, 1994

Stadiums belong in cities, where they serve as an economic and cultural investment. Moving them to the suburbs not only contributes to urban decline, but clogs highways, diminishes open space and damages neighborhoods. So we salute the decision by an Anne Arundel administrative hearing officer who denied the Washington Redskins' application for a zoning exception to build a football stadium in Laurel.

Hearing officer Robert Wilcox said he believed the site next to Laurel Race Course is too small for the 78,600-seat stadium and that the Redskins had underestimated the amount of traffic the facility would generate. Even stadium supporters agreed that Mr. Wilcox raised valid objections and that the Redskins had not adequately responded.

Although the Redskins have tried for months to persuade residents and community leaders that the $160 million stadium would be a boon to the neighborhood, they have been unable to dispel legitimate questions about traffic congestion, noise and pollution.

They offered up an unworkable plan to deny admission to fans who do not show parking passes or ticket stubs from public transportation. They have also made idiotic statements about the stadium's impact on the surrounding community. No one is going to believe that a major league football stadium would generate no more light than a "house porch light" or that water run-off from the site would be cleaner than if the project weren't built.

Even their efforts to modify their proposal make it seem as though the Redskins are trying to squeeze into a pair of cleats that just don't fit. They have talked about reducing parking by 50 percent, seeking landscape variances, parking cars inside the race track oval and placing a storm-water management pond underground. But these revisions are further evidence that the site is simply too small to accommodate a project of such magnitude and bolster the argument that the stadium should be built elsewhere.

Although some Laurel business owners may be disappointed by the hearing officer's ruling, Mr. Wilcox noted that the Redskins failed to provide evidence to support promised tax riches, significant employment opportunities or widespread business development.

The game for the Redskins isn't over. They now will take their case to the county's Board of Appeals. We believe the board should reaffirm Mr. Wilcox's decision. Mr. Cooke, meanwhile, ought to reconsider staying in Washington. Marion Barry has indicated that, if he's elected mayor, he would be willing to play ball with the Redskins.

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