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Cooke Took a Pass On Site Near RFK

Soil Cleanup, Residents' Worries Still at Issue

By Serge F. Kovaleski
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 6, 2004; Page A05

The site where D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D) wants a baseball stadium built was a prime parcel for a sporting venue in the early 1990s, when Jack Kent Cooke offered to build a $206 million home for the Washington Redskins.

Cooke abandoned his plans in 1993 and instead built what is now FedEx Field in Landover. The late Redskins owner gave up on the site near Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium because of neighborhood opposition, environmental concerns and the slow pace of obtaining approval for the project from federal agencies and Congress, which have jurisdiction over the land.

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Today, the environmental problems in the land just north of RFK remain, and yesterday Cropp estimated that it would cost $20 million to clean up the area. She said in an interview that the funds would most likely be raised through the bond issue that would be used to finance stadium construction.

An environmental impact study completed in October 1993 found potentially harmful lead contamination in soil. Safely handling the hazardous material, most of it lead-heavy incinerator ash, would have required more than a dozen air-monitoring stations and the naming of a dust-control manager, the study said. Access roads would have to be paved to prevent dust from kicking up, and windscreens and spray curtains would be needed to wet truck beds during filling and dumping.

Cropp noted that one of the advantages of the RFK site is that an environmental review has already been done "and we know what is there." Nearly half of the $4 million the District spent in its failed bid to get Cooke to keep the Redskins in the city was spent in connection with the environmental study.

Cropp said such a study would also have to be conducted at the Southeast Washington site on the Anacostia River where the administration of Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D) and Major League Baseball have agreed to build the stadium. Given the industrial area at that site, Cropp said, some remediation is likely unavoidable.

But Cropp said she was not sure whether another environmental review would be necessary for the RFK site. Bonnie Smith, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said it is incumbent on the federal agency that "owns the land" to determine whether another environmental study has to be conducted or the previous one updated. William Line, a National Park Service spokesman, said he was unable to get an answer yesterday, adding that it was "premature" for his agency to weigh in on the matter.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Kingman Park neighborhood next to RFK said they remain vehemently opposed to a ballpark north of the current stadium, in large part because it would be too close to homes, particularly those along Oklahoma Avenue NE.

Cropp, however, had indicated yesterday at a news conference that Kingman Park residents supported her stadium proposal and that she had discussed it with them at community meetings.

"That is absolutely not what we discussed with her. She was trying to sell us on the mayor's plan to have the team temporarily play at a renovated RFK for three years," said Frazer Walton Jr., president of the Kingman Park Civic Association. "We have no problem with a baseball team playing at RFK temporarily or permanently.

"But we are bitterly opposed to having any stadium closer to homes than RFK . . . because the noise, traffic and trash would adversely impact the neighborhood," Walton said.

Cropp said she was under the impression that the Kingman Park community did not object to a stadium next to the RFK site. "We did not talk about specific location at that site," she said. "But I am flexible."

John Capozzi, an activist in nearby Barney Circle, said a stadium built on the parking lots on the south side of RFK -- farther from Kingman Park -- would be "worthy of consideration."

"I'm glad she [Cropp] came up with a new proposal, because the other one is obviously a bad deal," Capozzi said. "If putting a new stadium next to RFK is going to bring some good things to our neighborhood, like shopping, businesses and some residential development, then that is great."

Staff researcher Bobbye Pratt contributed to this article.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company