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.