Wednesday, January 19, 2011

An open letter to Arlington families

Dear Arlington families --

As parents who have schlepped kids back and forth across the county (with sliced oranges and juice boxes for halftime snacks), we would all love to see more athletic fields. From soccer to lacrosse, from football to baseball, we love the opportunities Arlington provides and we're occasionally frustrated that there aren't more fields that are closer to our homes. But we need to correct some recent suggestions that a proposal to install lights at Bishop O'Connell High School in north Arlington will provide lots of additional field time for Arlington families.

The private high school is seeking to install lights on its baseball and football fields over the strong objections of its neighbors, and has said it will be partnering with Marymount University, which will use the fields extensively. That will leave little, if any, time for Arlington youth sports -- if any. Just a few days ago, O'Connell representatives told the Williamsburg Civic Association that the high school would use 85 percent of the time, leaving only 15 percent for Marymount and others. In meetings with neighbors, O'Connell officials have said Marymount could account for 12 percent of the field time. That would leave only 3 percent for county use.

Given Marymount's financial investment in the lights and field improvements -- as much as 50 percent of the cost -- it's inconceivable that there would be much time for youth sports. There could very well be none, especially as Marymount increases its use of the stadium and baseball fields.

So please don't be misled by suggestions there may some day be lots of field time at O'Connell. Given the school's own statements, there won't be.

Eleanor Smith and Sean Tyler
Greg and L.P. Mitchell
Steve and Kathy Nicholakos
Jeff and Kim Condron
Brian and Maria Davidson
Katherine and Bill Adair
Julie and Dennis Bruns

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Williamsburg Civic Assoc. takes strong stand against O'Connell lights

The Williamsburg Civic Association voted overwhelmingly Tuesday night to oppose the proposal to install stadium lights at Bishop O'Connell High School.

By a 57-2 vote, the association approved a resolution that opposed the private school's application because the lights "will have a substantial adverse impact on the quality of life of many members of the Civic Association, create noise and light pollution, aggravate parking and traffic problems, and diminish the value of neighboring homes."

The vote means that both civic associations near the private school are strongly opposed to the lights. The Arlington East Falls Church Civic Association voted against the lights last fall. In addition, more than 400 Arlington residents have signed a petition opposing the lights.

O'Connell also indicated it was once again seeking a delay in its hearing before the Arlington County Board -- this time until March.  O'Connell's proposal was originally scheduled for a hearing in September.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Petition drive tops 400 signatures

Opposition to the O'Connell lights keeps growing.

Residents have now collected 400 signatures from Arlingtonians asking the County Board to oppose lights on the O'Connell fields. The signatures come not just from people in the immediate vicinity around the private school, but from blocks away.

The additional signatures will be presented to the County Board.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

O'Connell's proposal and the environment

When Chris Zimmerman became chairman of the County Board on Saturday, he spoke about the important role Arlington and other communities have in reducing carbon emissions to combat climate change. It was the first thing he mentioned in his speech, which signified its importance in the county's goals for the year. He said, "a lower carbon footprint can equal a higher quality of life." 

We agree completely and we applaud Arlington's leadership in taking bold steps to reduce energy, as the county has done with the solar panels at the new Westover library. And in keeping with that approach, we think it is critical for us to point out the tremendous amount of additional energy that would be used if Bishop O'Connell High School is allowed to install lights on its football and baseball fields.

By our calculations, the lights will require the equivalent of 86 tons of coal every year, pumping 320,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. That's just from Bishop O'Connell!

There's no need for that to happen because lights are not necessary for a private high school's athletic facility. Six of the eight schools in O'Connell's athletic conference do not have lights, which saves hundreds of tons of coal and avoids the excessive carbon emissions.

- Julie Bruns

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

O'Connell seeking another delay

TBD is reporting that Bishop O'Connell is seeking to delay the vote by the County Board until February.
Officials from Bishop Denis J. O'Connell high school are now asking for a delay on the Arlington County Board's vote on their proposal to install lights on their athletic fields, school president Katy Prebble tells TBD.
Here's the full story.

Monday, January 3, 2011

An interesting fact about O'Connell

During community meetings back in September, Kevin Fay, the head of O'Connell's Board of Governors, told residents of the Williamsburg and East Falls Church Civic Associations that a majority of O'Connell students were from Arlington County.

That surprised many of us in the audience because we had seen a large portion of the students' cars with Fairfax stickers. His point was that the beneficiaries of the lighting-stadium expansion plan were largely Arlington residents.

Turns out he was not just wrong -- he was way off. Arlington students don't account for "a majority" of O'Connell's current students -- they account for less than 12 percent.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Petitions with 375 signatures presented to County Board

Residents of the Williamsburg and Arlington East Falls Church neighborhoods presented the County Board with petitions carrying the signatures of 375 Arlington residents who are opposed to Bishop O'Connell's request to install lights and expand its football and baseball facilities.

The petitions were presented to Board members Mary Hynes and Barbara Favola at the board's New Year's Day meeting. The residents are still collecting additional signatures and will present them in the near future.

Julie Bruns, Ruth Shearer and Ellen Jones with the petitions outside the county offices.