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Monday, December 6, 2004; Page E02

Small Used-Car Dealers Win Prince George's Case

A year ago, some smaller used-car dealers in Prince George's County faced extinction. A plan set in motion by county leaders in 2000 made used-car lots smaller than 25,000 square feet illegal. The intent, County Council members said, was to improve aesthetics and spur revitalization, particularly along U.S. Route 1.

A few dealers closed. Others fought back by suing the county, charging that the county's law was unconstitutional. Last week, dealers learned that Prince George's Circuit Court Judge Judge Michele D. Hotten had ruled in their favor on Nov. 24. The county hasn't decided whether to appeal.

Linda W. Cropp got to sit next to Bud Selig.

"I've been afraid to fully stock my inventory in fear of what the ruling was going to be," said Maziar Azar, owner of Adel Motors in Marlow Heights. "A lot of us have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hopefully, we can start over."

Azar's lot is tucked behind a Koons auto repair shop about 15 miles from an arts district along U.S. Route 1 that the Prince George's government had most hoped to help with the law. Some used-car dealers in the arts district closed last year because of the new law.

The law has "already had an impact, but there's a lot more work that needs to be done along the Route 1 Corridor," said Peter A. Shapiro, the former Prince George's County councilman who championed the zoning change.

-- Krissah Williams

Stadium Seating

At the Greater Washington Board of Trade annual meeting Thursday, all eyes were on the featured speaker, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, and D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D). The two, who have disagreed on elements of plans for a publicly financed ballpark in Washington, were seated next to each other on the dais.

Cropp had expressed misgivings about the stadium deal and has suggested that alternatives be studied. Selig has said the District needs to stick with what it promised.

It was no accident the two were sitting together.

"We were aware [Cropp] has said she wanted to question baseball about some aspects of the deal," said Robert A. Peck, president of the Board of Trade. "There was Mr. Baseball. We thought it made sense to put them next to each other and get them talking. It's one of those great things that everybody who's ever set out place settings at a dinner party knows about."

-- Neil Irwin

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