Games the Redskins Play

November 18, 1994

The Washington Redskins seem to be playing games other than football these days.

In October, an Anne Arundel County administrative hearing officer rejected the Redskins' plan to build a stadium in Laurel (and extra parking space just over the county line in nearby Howard County). Now the team and some business leaders want to do an end-run around the county's Board of Appeals and take their case directly to Anne Arundel's County Council.

Once again, Howard County residents will have to rely on Anne Arundel officials to do the right thing on their behalf.

The Arundel County Council has several options. It could rezone the land in Laurel or stack the Board of Appeals with appointees likely to vote in favor of the stadium.

But the Redskins and stadium supporters seek a different solution: They want the council to change a few words in the zoning code to make the stadium a permitted use at the Laurel Race Course site. That action would make moot Administrative Hearing Officer Robert Wilcox's ruling and the pending appeal. While it is not unprecedented for the Arundel council to make zoning changes, to do so in this case would undermine the Board of Appeals process and inject politics into what should be an impartial decision.

Mr. Wilcox made his courageous ruling against the Redskins based upon the facts presented to him. As he noted, the site next to the Laurel Race Course is too small for a 78,600-seat football stadium; moreover, claims of the economic benefits from a football team have been unsubstantiated. His well-reasoned decision drew little argument, even from stadium supporters.

Now having failed to prove their case on its merits, team officials want to push the project through with politics. They are tinkering with the blueprints and preparing an economic benefits report they hope will sway the council.

So far, a majority of the newly elected council members say they are unwilling to play along with the Redskins. They acknowledge that changing the zoning code smacks of special-interest politics, and if politicians should have learned anything from the recent election, it is that voters don't like special interests.

The Laurel football stadium is a bad idea. Professional football belongs in the cities, not in the suburbs. Let Washington have the Redskins, and let Baltimore find a ball club of its own.

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