Friday, November 5, 2010

Letter to the Neighborhood

Dear Neighbors,

As you probably know, Bishop O’Connell High School is proposing to install lights on the school’s athletic fields. The school is seeking a use permit that would allow the lights to remain on until 10 or 10:30 p.m. every night of the year.

Many of us have serious concerns about the impact the lights will have on our neighborhood and have been talking with the county and Bishop O’Connell about the proposal. Our two civic associations, the Williamsburg Civic Association and the Arlington East Falls Church Civic Association, have formed a working group to meet with O’Connell and county officials and discuss our concerns. Bill Adair, a member of our working group, has started this blog to keep the community updated about the proposal.

O’Connell tried to get the county to approve the lights very quickly and gave very little notice to our community. Many of us found out about the proposal just 10 days before it was scheduled to be voted on. But the county delayed it. The proposal is now likely to come before the County Board on Dec. 11.

County zoning laws require that the County Board determine that the lights will not have an adverse impact on our community. The Arlington East Falls Church Association has taken a vote that showed strong opposition to the lights.

You can find the documents about the proposal on the Yahoo Group pages for the AEFCA and the WCA.

Bishop O’Connell has proposed a Memorandum of Understanding about the proposal that spells out what O’Connell will do. We’ll post that memo on the blog.

We need you to speak up. We encourage you to get familiar with the proposal and then let the County Board and the county zoning office know how you feel about it. We’ve heard that many of our neighbors are concerned about it, but the county has received relatively few comments about the proposal. So we encourage you to write them IMMEDIATELY.

Our working group met on Oct. 31 and found we have some serious concerns about the proposal:
  • Neither Bishop O’Connell nor Arlington County has done much to explore the impact on our neighborhood, particularly from traffic.
  • There has been talk about use by college students from Marymount University, as well as unspecified -- and possibly extensive -- uses by the county, but the details of partnership have not been spelled out.
  • Noise from nighttime events has not been quantified or thoroughly studied.
  • Hundreds of cars will be parking on our neighborhood streets, but the impact has not been explored.
  • The lighting impacts of the proposal -- the extent of light spillage onto neighboring properties and sky glare -- are not known at this time.
  • We’ve gotten very sketchy answers from O’Connell (and the county) about how it will be used, frequency of use, size of crowds.

So we encourage you to:
  • Stay up to date by checking this blog every few days. Feel free to e-mail postings to your neighbors by clicking the e-mail button at the bottom of each post.
  • If you’re interested in helping our petition drive against the proposal, contact Ruth Shearer at
  • If you’re interested in supporting the lights, contact Liz McGonigle at or 703-237-4790.
  • Contact county board members with your feelings about the proposal. ( Jay Fisette,; Chris Zimmerman,, Barbara A. Favola,, Mary Hynes,, Walter Tejada,
  • Let us know your thoughts about the proposal and if you’d like to help. We interested in finding volunteers with experience in land-use issues, lobbying and public relations.


The AEFCA-WCA Working Group

AEFCA Panel Members:
- Jayne Bultena -
- Anne Collins -
- Liz McGonigle -
- Dennis Price -
- David Swiger -
- Marcia Tremaine –  

WCA Panel Members:
- Bill Adair –  
- John Seymour –