Redskins scolded for presuming their stadium parking proposal will be OK'd


Anne Arundel County's hearing officer chided Redskins officials yesterday for basing their plans to build a National Football League stadium in Laurel on the presumption that their request to provide half of the required parking spaces would be granted.

At the same time, Robert C. Wilcox, the administrative hearing officer, called the 39,000-space requirement unrealistic in this case.

"It couldn't be done, not on this site," Mr. Wilcox said during the sixth day of a hearing that will determine whether the Redskins will be granted a special exception allowing them to build a $160 million, 78,600-seat stadium in an industrial zone next to the Laurel Race Course.

The team also is seeking seven variances from county codes on matters such as parking, landscaping and time limits for completing the project.

"I don't think it's appropriate," Mr. Wilcox said of the county requirement that there be one parking space for every two seats in the stadium. "I think it is excessive."

Although they were on the receiving end of a lecture, one of several Mr. Wilcox has directed at them over the course of the hearing, Redskins officials were delighted about his comment on the county's parking requirement.

"That made me feel a lot better, that he thinks it's wrong," Redskins project manager Walter Lynch said during a break in the hearing. "We have flexibility in our site plan," he said, adding that the Redskins want to demonstrate to Mr. Wilcox that their plan will work.

Earlier in the hearing, Richard Talkin, a lawyer for Russett Center Ltd., a development of 3,000 homes near the stadium site, called into question the assumptions the Redskins used to design their traffic and parking plan. He challenged plans to handle the traffic into and out of the stadium and the adequacy of proposed road improvements.

He also was skeptical of the Redskins' request for 8-foot-wide parking spaces instead of the required 9 feet, saying that would not allow adequate room for vans, recreational vehicles and tailgate parties.

"Have either of you ever observed at a football game tailgating before the game?" Mr. Talkin asked the Redskins traffic consultants.

Mr. Wilcox asked the Redskins' traffic experts, who have proposed 20,700 parking spaces, how many additional ones they could provide before major changes in their plan would be necessary to satisfy adequate-facilities requirements.

The experts said that if two variances are approved -- one that would allow them to shift trees from the required traffic islands to buffers surrounding the parking lot and another that would reduce the width of each space to 8 feet from 9 feet -- they could provide 3,000 additional spaces. An additional 733 spaces for fans could be created by moving employee parking, they said.

Adding the 3,733 spaces would require adding a fifth lane to westbound Route 198, said Wes Guckert, a traffic consultant hired by the Redskins.

If the two variances are denied, the 20,070 spaces proposed by the Redskins in the site plan can still be accommodated, said Martin Wells, another Redskins traffic consultant. But if Mr. Wilcox rules that 39,000 spaces are necessary, "there will never be a stadium like this built in Anne Arundel County or in anywhere in the world," said Harry Blumenthal, an attorney representing the Redskins at the hearing.

Mr. Blumenthal said the Redskins would prefer to focus on the plan they presented, in the belief that it will work. The team maintains that by holding down the number of parking spaces, it will encourage fans to use car pools, mass transit and charter buses.

Mr. Wilcox replied that the Redskins should have submitted a plan that dealt with the 39,000-space requirement first and then asked for a variance. "It seems to me the plan should have been designed to recognize the law and the work backward if [the variance] was granted," Mr. Wilcox told the Redskins officials.

Approval of the Redskins' plan rests on whether the assumptions of the traffic consultants are valid. "It puts me in the position of, 'Your model doesn't work. Case denied,' " Mr. Wilcox said.

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad