Thursday, December 30, 2010

NewsChannel 8/TBD segment on O'Connell controversy

NewsChannel 8, now known as TBD, aired a segment on the O'Connell controversy Wednesday night.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Realtors expect decline in home values

One question mark about O'Connell's proposal has been its impact on our home values. We've all generally assumed it wouldn't increase the values, but we didn't have any data. So we turned to the group that would know best: Arlington real estate agents.

We recently conducted a survey of Arlington real estate agents (46 responded to our survey) and asked them if the O'Connell proposal for lights and stadium expansion would increase, decrease or have no effect on our home values.

The results surprised us. Not only did an overwhelming majority of agents (80 percent) say the values would decline for the first row of homes that are adjacent to the private school, but a strong majority (65 percent) said the values will decline for all homes in the first block.

And a substantial number of agents believe the impact will be even broader. Thirty-five percent said homes within three blocks will decline.

The agents expect significant declines in home prices. On average, they expect that prices for the first row homes will decline by 11 percent, which works out to about $72,000 for a typical home.

Homes in the first block will decline by 9 percent, or slightly more than $60,000.

A copy of the full study is attached below.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Petition drive shows strong opposition to O'Connell plan

A petition drive shows strong opposition to Bishop O’Connell’s proposal from residents of the Williamsburg and Arlington East Falls Church neighborhoods.

A preliminary count indicates volunteers have collected well over 250 signatures on petitions that oppose the lights and stadium expansion. Volunteers have been going door-to-door in the past two weeks and have found a large percentage of residents opposed to the proposal, including many who live outside the immediate streets around O’Connell.

If you haven’t signed the petition and would like to, please contact Ruth Shearer at

Monday, December 13, 2010

Board delays vote on O'Connell proposal

The Arlington County Board has delayed its consideration of O’Connell’s proposal for lights and a stadium expansion until January.

At its meeting Saturday, the board included the O’Connell proposal with other items it was deferring to later meetings. The issue is likely to be considered at the Jan. 22 meeting.

Board members did not discuss the issue, although Member Barbara Favola signed a “declaration of personal interest” in the issue because her employer Marymount University "may indirectly benefit" from the use permit. Favola said that Virginia law permits her to vote because she is a member of a group, the members of which are affected by the proposal, and that she can participate in the proposal fairly, objectively, and in the public interest.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Study shows O'Connell plan will cause severe parking shortage on neighborhood streets

As part of its plan to install lights and create a larger sports complex to host NCAA events with Marymount University, Bishop O’Connell High School plans to enlarge its stadium and shrink its parking lot. But surprisingly, Arlington County has not required the school to conduct a study on the impact in the neighborhood -- particularly on parking.

So residents of the neighborhood have recently conducted a study that calculates the parking impact. The study finds that the expanded stadium will bring hundreds of cars to nighttime events, overwhelming the school’s limited parking lots and forcing more than 400 cars to seek parking on our streets.

With O’Connell expanding the stadium, the study finds that 850 cars will come to the school for a typical nighttime football game. But O’Connell’s lots -- which will lose about 50 spaces because of the expansion -- will only hold 447 cars. So the remaining 403 cars will seek parking on neighborhood streets.

The study shows that even if people attending O’Connell events take every available parking space on the streets near the school, there will still be such a shortage that they will have to park in the outer ring of streets far from the school.

The parking shortage could have a serious domino effect. As O'Connell events clog neighborhood streets, many residents will be unable to find a place to park near their home. That could make them likely to seek further parking restrictions (the current zone protections end at 5 p.m.). But that in turn could cause attendees for the O’Connell events to park on streets farther and farther away.

We are sending a copy of the study to the County Board today. 
A copy of it is after the link.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

County Board still likely to consider O'Connell proposal in January

Many residents received notices Saturday that the County Board meeting to consider O'Connell's plan will be held next Saturday, Dec. 11. And indeed, the agenda shows that item. But it indicates the staff recommendation is to "Defer the use permit amendment request for expanding the use of the site by lighting the existing athletic fields to the January 22, 2011 County Board meeting."

The link indicates the county is waiting for (1) updated photometrics; (2) a revised site plan showing light pole locations; (3) proposed parking plan; (4) landscaping plan "particularly showing light spillage on North 26th Street and Trinidad."  The staff recommendation also notes O'Connell's request for 70-80 foot light poles and additional setbacks and states that those requests would not be in compliance with Arlington ordinance requirements.

We'll update the blog as soon as we have confirmation of the date. But in the meantime, residents are encouraged to write and call County Board members in the next few days, since they will be seeing the item on their agenda.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Other private schools don't have lights

Bishop O’Connell High School has requested the Arlington County Board approve its permit to re-construct, re-orient, expand, and light its sports fields.  In support of its request, Bishop O’Connell has repeatedly stated that Arlington public high schools have undertaken similar upgrades in recent years and that it should have “parity” with those schools.

In response to those statements, the neighborhood has examined whether and to what extent other local high schools have lighted sports fields.  The results of our survey, summarized below, reveal quite plainly that very few private high schools within Bishop O’Connell’s athletic conference -- the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) – have lighted fields.

Although some local public high schools have field lights for sporting events, those schools are not situated similarly to O’Connell.  Schools like Yorktown High School and Washington-Lee High School have had lighted fields for decades, are not located in zoning districts for single family homes, and are sited and landscaped so as to minimize adverse effects of night-time sports usage.

The WCAC consists of eight schools, and six of them do not have field lights. Like O’Connell, these schools have made a tradition of daytime football and baseball games. They have found it’s not critical to have lights. For example, St Johns High School in Chevy Chase recently upgraded its fields with field turf, improved seating, landscaping, and new fencing – but the school did not install night field lighting.

Only two of these WCAC schools have fields with lights: Good Counsel Catholic High School in Olney, MD and Paul VI Catholic High School in Fairfax, VA.  Neither of these two schools is located in a neighborhood similar to the Williamsburg/East Falls Church neighborhood -- Bishop O’Connell’s dense residential setting.

Good Counsel High School in Olney has no homes within one mile of the school.

Paul VI Catholic High School is located along a busy, commercial stretch of Lee Highway in Fairfax, across from the Fairfax Outlet Mall. But there are homes adjacent to its football field, and the Fairfax City Council has been responsive to the homeowners when the school sought to expand its athletic facilities.   In late October 2009, the Diocese of Arlington applied for permits to allow Paul VI to expand its athletic facilities. After protests from neighbors about excessive light and noise and stray foul balls landing in their yards, the Fairfax City Council on September 14, 2010  voted 4-1 to grant historical preservation protection to the property and thus prevent its development for expanded athletic facilities

In voting to preserve the property as residential, Councilman Greenfield stated he sought to “protect the residential neighborhood,” and that “last night he could hear the football game from Paul VI and couldn’t imagine what it would be like to live across the street from the stadium.”  Councilman Meyer noted Paul VI’s wish to expand its facilities but stated that “its footprint is what it is and they [Paul VI] will need to work within it.”  

O’Connell’s discussions of parity have been selective. School officials have often cited Yorktown and other public schools for comparison but neglected to point out that as a private school, it locks its fields and does not allow residents of the neighborhood to use its facilities. It’s also important to note these public schools have significant differences from O’Connell:

1.    Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA – Football and baseball fields have night lighting.
  •  Lights have been in place for over 30 years – residents who purchased near the school were aware of the night athletic field lighting; thus the lighting does not diminish property values.
  •  Homes are farther away.
  •  Four homes located to the east of Wakefield’s football field.
  •  Fields are surrounded by significant tree/shrubbery walls.

2.    Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, VA – Football field has night lighting.
  • Lights have been in place for at least 40 years – residents who purchased near the school were aware of the night athletic field lighting; thus the lighting does not diminish property values
  • The two fields along Quincy St do not have athletic lights
  • Residences are located only along one side of football field, Stafford St.

3.    Yorktown High School, Arlington, VA – Greenbrier Field has night lighting.
  • Lights have been in place for 40 years– residents who purchased near the school were aware of the night athletic field lighting; thus the lighting does not diminish property values
  • Residences located adjacent to fields along N. Greenbrier St. and N. 27th St.
  • Yorktown Civic Association residents very involved in recent YHS renovations which resulted in:
a.    parking improvements
b.    mitigation of light spillage and loudspeaker noise pollution
c.    significant tree barriers between field and residences and
d.    lowering football field to mitigate sound disturbance to nearby residents.

4.    TC Williams High School, Alexandria, VA – has no athletic field lighting
  • School is located along busy King St. corridor with athletic fields abutting residences of Seminary Hills Civic Association
  • Agreement with residents of Seminary Hills Civic Association dating to school’s initial construction does not allow school to have permanent night lighting on its athletic fields – the school continues to honor this agreement
  •  Despite lack of lights, the school is famous for its football team. The film “Remember the Titans” was made about the TC Williams football team!
-- Julie Bruns

Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) School Athletic Field Comparables
Lights on School’s Athletic Fields?
Fields Adjacent to Residential Properties?
Additional Pertinent Information on School’s Athletic Fields
DeMatha High School Hyattsville, MD

Games played at Prince George's Sports and Learning Complex, adjacent to Fedex Field
Good Counsel High School
Olney, MD
No residences near Dancel Field (football/ baseball) –see photo below
Gonzaga High School Washington DC NW

St. John's High School
Washington DC – Chevy Chase
Fields recently redone with field turf, landscaping, improved seating –but no night field lighting (field on Oregon Ave adjacent to Rock Creek Parkway).
Archbishop Carroll High School
Washington DC NE
Field adjacent to North Capitol St NE

Paul VI Catholic High School
Fairfax, VA
School located along Lee Highway across the street from The Outlet Mall at Fairfax Shopping Center.  Athletic fields perpendicular to Lee Hwy along McLean Ave.  See photo below.

 * 5 homes on other side of McLean Ave from football field.  Trees/shrubbery separate these homes from  McLean Ave and East side of football field.  Athletic field lights conveyed with the fields when Diocese of Arlington purchased the school property from George Mason U. in 1982 (school was originally Fairfax High School).  In late October 2009, the Diocese of Arlington applied for several permits to allow Paul VI to expand its athletic facilities. After hearing testimony from neighbors about too much light and noise and stray foul balls from sports activities , the Fairfax City Council  Recently voted 4-1 to prevent expansion of the athletic fields.
Bishop O'Connell High School
Arlington, VA
Completely surrounded by residential community (Arlington East Falls Church Civic Association and Williamsburg Civic Association)
Bishop McNamara High School
District Heights, MD
Heavy tree/shrubbery separate residences located adjacent to east and north sides of athletic field.
***Bishop Ireton High School
Alexandria, VA
School located along Cambridge Rd off of Duke St.   ** 8 homes with back yards directly adjacent to north side of football field. In 2006- 2007, due to BI renting out its fields to other schools and resultant continuous daytime activity on fields, Clover-College Park Civic Association initiated 9-month investigation of BI’s compliance with use permit. School was forced to agree to cease renting its fields for non-BI team use and to restrict play-time to reasonable day-time hours, no Sunday games, etc.
***St Mary’s Ryken High School
Leonardtown, MD
School located in secluded area due north of Breton Bay.  No residences near St Mary’s Ryken Field with night lighting.