A three-member Prince George's County appeals board recently ended a two-year legal battle over public access to FedEx Field during Washington Redskins games. The county Department of Public Works and Transportation had a policy that closed five roads around the stadium on game days and barred pedestrians from walking on the sidewalks of Redskins Road. But the appeals board voted 2 to 1 to overturn the policy late last month. Fans will be allowed to walk to the stadium along Redskins Road for today's game against the Cincinnati Bengals -- and for future games.
Raymond Krasnick, chairman of the Board of Administrative Appeals, spoke with staff writer Joshua Partlow about the decision.
Q Why did you vote to open the roads around FedEx Field to the public and let pedestrians walk to the game?
A I voted to open the roads around FedEx Field because I could not find, nor could the county specifically show me, any part of the zoning code allowing them to close the roads as a result of a special event.
What was the process the board went through to make its decision?
We read all the [legal] briefs from both sides and the cases and the histories, and we used the zoning code. We read everything sent to us by both attorneys . . . but in the final analysis, our decision was whether or not the county had the authority to close the roads in the name of safety for an event. In my own personal opinion, that was a stretch. They could close [roads] for construction work or an emergency like flooding on the road. I understand their reasoning that they want to protect people. But the fact is, if you don't have the authority to do something, no matter how good your reasoning is, you can't do it.
If you considered this a more serious safety issue, would that have changed your decision?
I definitely [do not] want to read in the paper the next day that a pedestrian was hit by a car because the board had opened the road. I thought long and hard about that. . . . But the county has people who are familiar with crowd control and the associated safety factors. If you know you're having an event, whether at the old Capital Center or FedEx Field, an event with 90,000 people showing up, then, by gosh, you should be able to control the crowds, and not rely on closing the roads and sidewalks. . . . Even the opening of the MCI Center, they didn't have to close the roads. They had enough police and enough security out there.
Can the team or county reinstate the policy restricting pedestrian access and closing roads?
They would have to use other legislation in the future if they want to do that. They would have to modify the county code. They can use emergency legislation, I suspect. That's a way to do it. This may come up in the future.
Do many of the Board of Appeals decisions attract this much attention?
Occasionally, some cases do attract attention, but not to the extent that this one has.
Have you heard any reaction from Redskins fans after the decision?
No, nobody has my telephone number. I'm sure [Peggy] Feltman [the season-ticket holder who sued over the policy] was very happy with our decision. But whether or not you are a Redskins fan should have no impact on the decision. In my opinion it was a matter of law.
Are you a Washington Redskins fan yourself? Do you plan on walking to a game?
No, as a matter of fact, I am a New York Giants fan. I do not have season tickets, so I do not attend games.