The D.C. Council yesterday voted 8-5 on an emergency bill, thus rejecting a bill that would have quickened the pace of building parking structures for the new Nationals ballpark slated to open in April of 2008. The vote means that chances are ever increasing that building the structures will be late in meeting a requirement to provide parking for 1,225 cars by Opening Day 2008. Per the lease agreement, if the city fails to provide the required spaces, it could be liable to pay millions of dollars in legal damages to the team.
The bill by Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, called for the city to build two garages aboveground at the north end of the stadium and an underground garage at the south end.
As reported by Tim Lemke of the Washington Times:
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.
The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission (DCSEC) may be left with no choice but to pave over a five-acre parcel north of the stadium to provide some parking and let others park on the street.
As reported by David Nakamura of the Washington Post:
Fenty, who is expected to win easily in the Nov. 7 general election for mayor, sought to resolve the deadlock after several city officials appealed to him to get involved last week. On Tuesday, Fenty met with city officials and the Lerner group and settled on his proposal for the $56 million garages.
There is $25 million for parking in the council's $611 million budget, meaning the city would need an additional $31 million. Fenty, with support from Gandhi, proposed that the city use $17 million in additional stadium-related taxes generated from local businesses during the stadium's first two baseball seasons; $8 million in stadium contingency funds; and $6 million in bonds that could be paid off by revenue made by the city by parking cars in the garages during non-game days.
Several council members argued yesterday that, technically, Fenty's plan would raise the cap by $23 million because of the planned use of the business tax revenue and the parking revenue, funds which could be spent on other city needs.
Before the vote, Mayor Williams voiced his frustration on the issue saying, "Take any major project from the pyramids to Stonehenge. The stupid parking lot has taken more hours and meetings per parking space. It's incredible."
How they voted
Adrian M. Fenty (D-Ward 4), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D), Kwame R. Brown (D-At Large), Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), Kathy Patterson (D-Ward 3), Sharon Ambrose (D-Ward 6) and Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7).
David A. Catania (I-At Large), Marion Barry (D-Ward 8), Phil Mendelson (D-At Large), Carol Schwartz (R-At Large), and Vincent B. Orange Sr. (D-Ward 5)