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Not Everyone in Kentland Is Cheering the Redskins

By Paul Valentine
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 28, 1996; Page E01

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Rising out of the raw earth like a massive steel-and-concrete lotus, the Washington Redskins' new stadium is rapidly nearing full bloom in Prince George's County. But for many residents around the 200-acre site just inside the Capital Beltway near U.S. Route 50, bloom means gloom.

"There's going to be traffic, illegal parking . . . and slower emergency vehicle response time every time there's a game or some other event there," said Theresa Dudley, a resident of Kentland, one of several neighborhoods of modest brick and frame homes and apartment buildings just north of the stadium.

Dudley, 34, president of the Kentland Civic Association and longtime opponent of the $175 million, 78,600-seat stadium, reels off other concerns: more air pollution, degraded wetlands, loss of green space, depressed real estate sales and a general sense that the county's political leaders have forsaken her and her neighbors.

"The biggest thing that impacted me about the stadium project is that it made me distrust the local government," Dudley said.

She and other activists pointed to heavy neighborhood opposition and a Mason-Dixon PoliticalMedia Research poll last January showing strong disapproval of the stadium throughout Prince George's County as a whole.

Nevertheless, Dudley and others said, county Executive Wayne K. Curry (D), Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) and Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke rammed the stadium project through, with Cooke buying the tract from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission shortly after the commission had acquired the land, originally a farm, for possible park use.

As plans stand now, according to planning commission officials, the stadium and a 23,000-car parking lot are being built on about 200 acres of the tract with at least another 80 acres set aside for a community athletic complex, including an indoor track and swimming pool, and a protected fossil ar\ea along a stream.

Stadium supporters said that Cooke is building the stadium with his own money, with the state kicking in an additional $71 million for road and other improvements. The road improvements, including a new interchange on the Beltway near the site, will relieve congestion, supporters said. The stadium, scheduled to open in September, also will generate millions of dollars in annual taxes for the state and county and create hundreds of part-time jobs for local residents, supporters said.

Another thing, they said: Under the National Football League schedule, the Redskins will play home games on eight to 10 weekends a year.

Stadium officials said they al\so plan a limited number of other events, such as concerts and college football games, but the stadium and its parking lot will remain largely unused much of the year.

Such talk has done little to allay local concerns.

"Yes, jobs will be coming into the community," said Jackie Beamon-Kiene,40, a Kentland resident who works for the American Institute of Physics, a nonprofit publishing organization. "But the traffic will end up being horrendous" on football game weekends.

Cornelius McNeil, 65, a 30-year resident of Kentland, said: "If any [game goers] park in my driveway, it's going to be the most expensive game they ever went to."

Some neighborhoods are even closer to the stadium site than Kentland. But Kentland residents fear that traffic feeder routes to the stadium, such as Landover Road, Martin Luther King Jr. Highway and Sheriff Road, will become so backed up that it will make it difficult to get out of neighborhood streets to run errands or, on Sundays, to go to church.

Lorna Green, 43, a bookkeeper and business manager who lives in Kentland, said she also fears the stadium is depressing property values. "I have seen houses for sale that have been on the market for a year," she said.

Venida Brown, a local real estate appraiser, said it is difficult to forecast the ultimate effect of the new stadium.

Brown attributed the current slow sales of properties in older neighborhoods such as Kentland to a recent splurge in new town house construction in nearby parts of Prince George's County.

"Most people [moving into] P.G. County prefer new houses, but because of the oversupply, that's going to slow sales, especially in places like Kentland," Brown said. Kentland houses typically sell for $65,000 to $85,000, she said.

Victoria Cox, head of the Environmental Justice Working Group, hired by several community groups to monitor the effect of the stadium, said the stadium and parking lot have "greatly diminished" available parkland in the area.

The lost acreage, she said, "could have been used for wetlands creation and restoration. . . . We shouldn't be shortchanged in this segment of the county."

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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