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Redskins Rebuked For Adding Seats To FedEx Field

Pr. George's Avoids Court Battle

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 6, 2004; Page B01

When members of the Prince George's County Council learned that the Washington Redskins had expanded FedEx Field without the council's approval, they began looking into their options.

They could force the Redskins to remove the 5,181 seats that were added before the season began. They could take the team to court for allegedly violating the county zoning ordinance, which requires one on-site parking space for every four seats in the stadium.

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Or they could politely scold the team.

After weeks of scrutiny, the council yesterday decided to go with the reprimand, introducing legislation that essentially tells the Redskins and owner Daniel Snyder: Don't do it again.

Council Vice Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) said that the council opted to take a more civil approach and steer clear of what could be a counterproductive legal battle with the Redskins.

"The other options really were draconian," Dean said. "The question was, did we want to take them to court in a lengthy legal battle when one branch of government had given them permission to build the seats? We didn't want to get into that kind of fight.

"We just wanted to get a handle on what is happening in that venue."

The council, which makes land use policy in the county, learned about the additional seats at FedEx Field by reading about the stadium expansion in the newspaper.

Last month, the council said the county's Department of Environmental Resources should not have allowed the Redskins to increase the seating capacity to 91,665 -- the most of any National Football League stadium -- without a hearing to discuss the effect the additional seats would have on parking.

The Redskins were authorized to have 22,001 on-site parking spaces and required to meet a 4 to 1 ratio of seats to parking spaces, under the FedEx Field site plan the county approved in 1996. That meant the team could have no more than 88,004 seats in the stadium.

The Redskins never went over that number until the latest expansion, which put the stadium at more than 3,000 seats over.

Aides to Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) said the Redskins, who lease parking spaces from the county and nearby businesses, have adequate parking.

Dean said he knows the Redskins have leased parking lots near the stadium, but he said neither the council nor the planning department knows how many off-site spots the team has.

The legislation introduced yesterday permits the Redskins to factor the off-site parking space total into the 4 to 1 ratio.

It also requires the team to provide information about parking to the council and the director of the planning department before any additional construction can take place at the stadium. Building permits cannot be issued until the information is provided, the measure states. The legislation now goes to a council committee.

Richard Day, president of the Lake Arbor Civic Association, said he did not understand why the Redskins were allowed to build additional seats when it was apparent that they did not have adequate parking for the seats already there.

"Why build extra seats when there isn't enough parking nearby and [the county] won't allow people to park where they want and walk?" Day asked, referring to an ongoing feud between some fans and the county over a ruling that bans walkers from several roads on game days.

The County Board of Appeals had been scheduled to decide today whether fans should be allowed to walk to FedEx Field, but it put off the vote until later this month. Many people would prefer to park for free at Landover Mall and walk, rather than pay $25 to park in a distant lot and then ride a shuttle bus to the stadium.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company