Laurel residents who opposed Jack Kent Cooke's dream of a new stadium for his Redskins won, in part, because the rich and powerful football team owner had to play by the rules. Anne Arundel officials subjected him to the same zoning process as anyone else. He didn't get special treatment, even though some politicians quietly coveted the tax windfall a gleaming, expensive stadium would have brought.
Mr. Cooke has now moved on to Prince George's County, where the County Council is considering his request for a boatload of favors designed to whisk him through the review process in less time and with less public scrutiny than ordinary mortals. If the council members in Upper Marlboro want to erode their constituents' faith in government, this is a good way to do it.
Prince George's lawmakers have already introduced three measures designed to help Mr. Cooke realize his dream facility ASAP. One would put the proposed stadium site, the so-called Wilson Farm in Landover, on a fast track to receive water and sewer permits. Two others would exempt Mr. Cooke from the rigorous four-level review process that ordinarily accompanies requests for zoning changes. In the time it takes nine people to say "aye," the bill would make a 78,600-seat football stadium permitted use on a site that now calls for nothing more intensive than houses and a small shopping center.
Mr. Cooke would escape environmental reviews, transportation studies, scrutiny of parking and building designs and numerous public hearings. The whole process normally takes up to a year; if the council lets the Redskins cut corners, they could be breaking ground this fall.
The Prince George's council should defeat these bills. This Redskins stadium is among the largest and most potentially disruptive development projects ever to come before county officials, just as it was one of the more important projects Anne Arundel had ever considered.
Like the Laurel site at the Anne Arundel-Howard county line, the Wilson Farm acreage sits in a suburban area where residents are terribly upset by the prospect of living next to a huge football stadium. And though Mr. Cooke intends to build the stadium with his own money, he's asking state taxpayers to put up at least $70 million for roads and other infrastructure. If any proposal demands scrupulous study and maximum opportunity for public input, this is it.