A bright future for County fields?
After two years of stalled attempts to light athletic fields in the county, the Board of Supervisors approved an amendment last night to a zoning ordinance that had previously made it "impossible to light the ball fields," according to the County's Manager of Zoning Administration, John Shepherd.
According to the county staff report, the zoning ordinance split the process of lighting a field into several steps, with athletic light poles considered "structures" in the dense planning committee language. As structures, the poles were restricted by building height regulations, and applicants had to appear before the Board of Zoning Appeals–- which has stricter restrictions than the Planning Commission–- to request a waiver or an exemption from the restrictions. This is where most proposals failed.
"The interpretation was that the pole height couldn't be modified by the Planning Commission, which ultimately put an end to sports lighting," Shepherd says.
The amendment, which was passed unanimously by the Supervisors, clarifies a process that may be used frequently by a growing and sports-hungry community. In the County's Capital Improvement Program, a total of $503,000 is projected to be spent on athletic field development over the next ten years. Plans to light proposed soccer fields in the Rio Road-area Belvedere community are in the works, as are plans to light Darden Towe's tennis courts and–- controversially–- softball fields. Both will be discussed in public meetings August 13 and September 10.
"The tennis courts can be lit and meet the lighting ordinance," County Director of Parks and Recreation Pat Mullaney says. "Lighting the tennis courts will be seen as less controversial than lighting the softball fields."
With the new amendment, the Planning Commission can handle all aspects of renovating an athletic field in a package deal. A new lighting ordinance was created in 1998, according to Shepherd, but it wasn't until 2006 that difficulty in the approval process stalled any further athletic field lighting.