Bid to hasten construction of ballpark parking hit

The D.C. Council yesterday rejected efforts to speed the construction of parking structures at the site of the Washington Nationals ballpark, increasing the city’s chances that it will be late in meeting a requirement to provide parking for 1,225 cars by Opening Day 2008.

The council turned down a proposal from council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, that called for the city to build two garages aboveground at the north end of the stadium and an underground garage at the south end.

Council members balked at the $56 million cost of the proposal, about $30 million over the parking budget for the ballpark. The proposal needed nine votes for approval and received eight.

The council also rejected an emergency bill presented by Mayor Anthony A. Williams to borrow additional money for underground parking at the stadium, saying that an emergency does not exist.

Council members said that the real reason they shot down the measure was because they thought the bill would violate the $611 million cap on the city’s expenditure for the stadium project.

Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, at-large Democrat, also ruled out of order a proposal from member Marion Barry, Ward 8 Democrat, to transfer control of the parking development to the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. (AWC).

The city must provide parking for 1,225 cars at the stadium, according to a contract with the Nationals.

Mr. Williams has pushed for underground parking because it would allow for street-level development, but the budget for the stadium provides $25 million, which is enough only for aboveground garages.

Mr. Fenty’s plan called for use of the $25 million, plus $17 million from excess baseball-related taxes raised this year and next, $6 million in revenue from parking on non-game days, and $8 million from the ballpark contingency.

Unlike previous parking plans, the proposal had the blessing of D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, but some council members argued that the use of the excess funds would violate the $611 million spending cap.

“Make no mistake, we’re already tens of millions of dollars above the cap with no end in sight,” said council member David A. Catania, at-large independent.

D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission Chairman Allen Y. Lew, who is overseeing the stadium project, said the council’s failure to approve a parking plan is a setback in efforts to complete the stadium by April 2008.

“I’m not sure if it’s back to square one, but we’re going to have to take a look at all of our options and see what to do next,” Mr. Lew said.

A spokesman for the family of real estate developer Ted Lerner, the principal owners of the Nationals, declined to comment.

The family has insisted that the city satisfy the parking requirement.

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