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Cooke formally abandons Laurel stadium effort


Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke formally has dropped his bid to build a football stadium near Laurel.

Lawyers for Mr. Cooke withdrew his appeal of a zoning decision that had prevented him from building the 78,600-seat stadium on 382 acres next to Laurel Park race course. The letter notifying the Anne Arundel Board of Appeals of the change arrived by fax Wednesday after office hours, a board clerk said yesterday.

"The appellants are discontinuing their efforts to construct a stadium in Anne Arundel County," said the letter written by Harry C. Blumenthal, a Cooke lawyer.

"I received a letter from him two days ago in which he says he has decided not to pursue Anne Arundel County, that he had wanted to locate in Anne Arundel County, but it simply wasn't to be," Mr. Blumenthal said yesterday.

Mr. Cooke said Friday he was giving up on plans to build the $160 million stadium at Laurel and would focus on Prince George's County, especially county-owned land inside the Capital Beltway known as Wilson Farms.

Opponents of the Laurel project were elated by news the team owner formally had withdrawn.

"I've been smiling for four hours now, and my face hurts," said Jeanne Mignon, president of Citizens Against the Stadium II, the community group that challenged plans for the stadium. "I know we made a difference. If we had not fought, we'd be seeing a very big hole in the ground there now."

The appeals hearing, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, will be merely a formal session in which the board approves the team's motion to withdraw.

"I would be absolutely surprised if the board did not go and OK the withdrawal," said Anthony V. Lamartina, board chairman. "The board members are certainly glad."

The board had budgeted $20,000 for legal fees and to record the hearing. Board members had put their vacation plans on hold until the hearing, which was expected to last as long as 400 hours, was complete.

The neighboring Russett Center Limited Partnership and CATS II also are expected to withdraw their appeals of a hearing officer's decision to grant a 39 percent reduction in parking spaces.

"I guess everybody will show up Tuesday to make sure it's really dead," said Thomas Dernoga, attorney for CATS II. "It could be like one of these horror movies, where things keep coming back from the dead."

"We're pleased with what appears to be the final outcome of this case," said Richard B. Talkin, attorney for Russett.

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