Commission Passes Lights Vote to City Council

Last night’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in University Park revisited whether or not to allow lights on Highland Park High School’s softball field and tennis courts.

The last time the commission met on June 11, a number of girls turned out to speak their minds. They claimed the lack of lights means they play fewer games, have less public support, miss more class, and might be in violation of Title IX because they play fewer games than the baseball team.

The issue has come up before; in 2011, commissioners shot down the proposal. This time, they unanimously recommended the appeal to the City Council, without any additional time for public discussion.

“The girls deserve lights,” Commissioner Doug Roach said. “That’s why I’m going to support it.”

Dr. Dawson Orr, superintendent of Highland Park ISD, was in attendance, as were representatives from Musco Sports Lighting, the company that would provide the lights. When the commissioners voted, softball teammates and their parents applauded. But not all residents are crazy about the idea.

Morton Newman, who owns property across from the field, delivered a letter to chief planning official Harry Persaud’s office on July 5. It reminded commissioners that when the facilities were built in 1999, the council assured residents no lights would be included. Newman’s letter calls the current request “identical” to that of 2011.

Newman feels that the light emitted is not the dominant issue; there’s also “automobile traffic, pedestrian traffic, crowd noise,” and other factors to consider. He understands the Title IX side of the argument, but worries the lights might be used for purposes outside of UIL regulation, such as renting the facilities for commercial use.

Persaud expects the issue to be on the council’s agenda for the Sept. 17 meeting.

By Sarah Bennett Jul. 10, 2013 | 2:24 pm | 15 Comments | Comments RSS
15 comments to "Commission Passes Lights Vote to City Council"
  1. Elena @ July 10, 2013 at 4:45 pm
    Thank you!! As a former player, it was ridiculously unfair that we were a second class varsity sport in that we had to play our games at 4 p.m., instead of at 7 like every other team in the area. Plus JV has never played a full length game at home, which hurts their gametime experience and the program as a whole.

  2. Z @ July 10, 2013 at 7:13 pm
    I wouldn’t be able to see the lights from my home, nor would I be affected by any localized increase in traffic. So it would be easy for me to say “who cares,” and let those who live closer to the issue shoulder the burden.

    But that’s not how our community is supposed to work. If I did live near the field, and the City got the facilities built in 1999 in part by promising proximate neighbors no lights, I’d be hopping mad if the City were now to say, “oh, except that when we said no lights, we meant yes, we actually will be installing lights.” That’s not honest, and it’s not just.

    Whether the girls “deserve” lights is a separate and purely subjective consideration, and is obviously a red herring issue in a zoning matter. After all, in every application for zoning variance, there’s a party who genuinely feels they “deserve” the variance. That’s a given. But everyone knows that’s not the proper way to decide such things, else all variances would automatically be granted.

  3. bm @ July 10, 2013 at 8:59 pm
    That is Morton’s rental property!

  4. Avid Reader @ July 11, 2013 at 6:26 am
    I was all for the lights until I heard about the council assuring the residents there would be no lights.

    @Z is right on the money. The short stick that the girls softball team is getting is not right, but an ancillary issue. If the city/school had any kind of back bone they would address both issues. First, follow their word and leave the lights out. Second, give equal playing time access of Scotland Yard to the softball and baseball teams. If that is not possible all the time then find an alternative field (SMU, The Village, Hillcrest, somewhere public, etc.) and move either the baseball or softball games there when needed. Evens the score for the girls and keeps the city/commission from becoming at best the definition of corrupt government and at worst flat out liars.

  5. jbw @ July 11, 2013 at 7:09 am
    @Z: Right on.

    @bm: So?

  6. Pony Up! @ July 11, 2013 at 8:06 am
    The complaints are the same that the residents near SMU voiced when the new Ford Stadium was being considered. The World Will Come to an End Six Saturdays a Year (not to mention those occassional high school games)! And, now the Bush library. Traffic, lights, Oh my!

    How many home games will the softball team have? How many cars drive up and down the street everyday for high school- maybe 1,000-2,000? What is the crowd at a softball game? 100? And, some ride together so there will be maybe 50-70 cars parked at night parked in garage. The games will probably be over before 9pm. Are people in bed by 9? The basketball games are over at 9-10pm. Come on.

  7. Softball @ July 11, 2013 at 8:32 am
    @Avid Reader: softball fields are not the same dimensions as baseball fields so switching up with Scottland Yard is no possible. I was on the inaugural HP softball team and I definitely feel for the team. We had to play at Coffee Park with no lights and it was awful. Our games were sometimes during school hours, so our only fans were a couple of moms and some grandparents. It stunk…..but so did we, so it was ok!

    I understand the city keeping with its word, but what is the “statute of limitations” on “keeping your word”? 10 years, 20 years, 50 years? At some point, doesn’t the city have to say, we agreed to that a long time ago, but now things have changed?

  8. XT @ July 11, 2013 at 9:13 am
    I agree with Avid and Z above. Basically, as I understand it, there wouldn’t even be a softball field if they hadn’t agreed to not have lights.

    And I don’t understand why they couldn’t share Scotland Yard. Seriously? In an area where land and space are at a premium, we have two single use facilities? I don’t get it.

  9. Swimmer @ July 11, 2013 at 10:24 am
    Seriously, a 50 meter swimming pool should have been put in that space so that it could have been used year round by a team that has won 11 state championships. Other than a couple of lights on the corners the building wouldn’t have had to had lights on the outside. Missed opportunity.

  10. Avid Reader @ July 11, 2013 at 10:56 am
    @Softball, You are absolutely correct, things change and should be adjusted accordingly. What has changed since 1999 that necessitates the city breaking their word? Unfortunately for the girls softball team, nothing. This was an issue in 1999 when they fought to put the field in originally, hence the agreement to not put lights at the field. Title IX was in full effect then and now. The softball team was an organization then and now. They were aware that to get a home field built they would have to agree to no lights which would mean day games just like the situation today. Again, nothing has changed since then that necessitates the city becoming liars. This issue gets brought up about every 3-4 years which means that every time a new crew of players and parents get involved they start this fight back up again with no new ammunition.

  11. A. B. @ July 11, 2013 at 1:02 pm
    The obvious answer is that, in order to meet the Title IX equality requirement, the lights at the baseball field should be removed.

  12. Equity is Hell @ July 11, 2013 at 2:01 pm
    And, while they are removing the baseball stadium lights can they please remove the football stadium lights that are on 4 nights per week during football season for 7th, 8th, 9th, JV, and varsity games? Thank you.

  13. Elena @ July 11, 2013 at 4:48 pm
    @XT Because Scotland Yard is made with turf, it would actually be extremely difficult to make it work for softball dimensions. Also, it would make scheduling very difficult since the softball and baseball teams play on the same days, and while usually one is home and one is away, that is not always true, especially for out-of-district games.
    I understand the fact that the neighbors were told there wouldn’t be lights. But 14 years later, can we revisit that? There’s a good chance some of the neighbors have changed. And I promise you, the softball team does not draw huge crowds, and most of the fans park in the spots on Douglas facing the school anyway.

  14. Avid Reader @ July 12, 2013 at 6:48 am
    @Elena, Thank you for the explanation of the difficulties in the softball team playing at Scotland Yard; was unaware that it was now turf. Has the school investigated an off-site location that is acceptable and has lights like SMU, the Village, or some other field I am unaware of that could be used in those instances that a night game would be necessary? That 14 years has passed is not totally irrelevant. Maybe some of the neighbors have changed who might not care, but it is clear from the blog post above that not all the neighbors have changed or forgotten the city’s promises. By all mean’s this should be brought up again and discussed, but since some of the neighbors that are still there who were given assurances I don’t think this will or should go any further than a discussion. Again, even though it has been 14 years, nothing in this situation has changed since then that would necessitate the city to go back on it’s word. What is one compelling difference in the situation then and now?

  15. Vince @ July 17, 2013 at 10:38 am
    I sat through both P & Z meetings and I would offer one clarification. The city did not “promise” that there would never be lights. The 1999 minutes reflect that “Lighting of the tennis courts and softball field is not permitted” as part of the proposed project. It doesn’t mean that a proposal to add lights could never be submitted. From what I’ve been told, the city council can’t bind future council decisions, and that would certainly make sense. The P & Z committee unanimously approved the motion to add lights. After hearing all of the statements during the meeting, it is hard to disagree.

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