The Columbia County Planning Commission approved a modified plan Thursday to bring lights to the Martinez private school’s athletic field. Planning Commissioner Bob Newkirk voted against the project.
School administrators sought four 80- to 90-foot lightposts around the field so football and other sporting events could go on at night.
On July 21, school personnel met with the Springlakes homeowner’s association and reached a mutual agreement, said Thomas Burnside, who was representing Augusta Prep at the meeting.
As part of that agreement, games will not start until after 7:30 p.m. and the lights will be turned off at 10:30 p.m. unless extenuating circumstances arise, Burnside said.
“I hope we buried some hatchets and have a good relationship moving forward,” he said.
Plans to expand stadium seating were reduced from 950 to 490 seats. Also, the number of scheduled evening events at the field was cut from 20 to 10 each school year.
The school won’t use lights for night practices or use the field for anything else involving lights, Burnside said.
They also agreed to add more landscaping as a buffer to help dampen noise and light pollution between the school and adjacent homeowners.
The school sustained a setback to its plans in May, when county commissioners denied adding lights to the field and expanding the stadium. The decision came after many Springlakes residents, who live behind the school off Flowing Wells Road, complained about excess noise and light generated by potential night games.
Several residents living in Springlakes also showed up Thursday to voice their concern.
“I feel like this is something trying to get rammed down our throats,” said Priscilla Bence, who worried about long-term effects the sound would have on sleep and hearing.
Former county commissioner Tommy Mercer asked that the item be tabled due to legality issues of the agreement reached by the school and homeowner’s association.
“That’s a separate issue, and that’s between them” said Planning Commission Chairwoman Jean Garniewicz. “If there’s a problem, you need to work that out. That’s not our decision here this evening.”
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