Augusta Prep denied football light request

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A Martinez private school's football team might not be playing under Friday night lights.

After postponing a decision earlier this month, the Columbia County Commission rejected a rezoning Tuesday that would have allowed Augusta Preparatory Day School to erect lights around its football stadium on Flowing Wells Road.

The revision would have allowed the school to mount light posts 80 to 90 feet tall at four spots around the field.

Several residents of neighboring Springlakes subdivision opposed the lights, and the commission voted 3-1 to not allow them.

Commissioner Charles Allen abstained from the vote. When asked why after the meeting, he said, "I just decided not to vote."

Springlakes homeowners have argued that the light and noise pollution from nighttime athletic events is too disruptive.

"If the situation were in (Augusta Prep's) backyard, they would be taking the same position as Springlakes," neighborhood resident Rob MacGregor told the commission.

Commissioner Trey Allen, a Springlakes resident, initiated the motion to disapprove. Chairman Ron Cross and Commissioner Bill Morris voted with him.

When the action was considered May 3, Commissioner Ron Thigpen moved to table the motion until Tuesday in hopes of reaching a compromise between Augusta Prep and Springlakes. His substitute motion called for limiting the school to just 20 events a year that require the lights, forbidding the lights to be used during practices and after 10 p.m., adding more trees and shrubs to buffer nearby homes, and indefinitely prohibiting the school from adding lights to its baseball stadium.

Augusta Prep officials said they would comply with Thigpen's suggestions, and Head of Schools Jack Hall said it is asking to use the lights for only 34 hours out of more than 8,000 hours in a year.

Thigpen is the only commissioner who sided with Augusta Prep.

Hall said he recently learned that no county permits are necessary to operate temporary portable lights at any event in the county, which might provide the school an alternative to permanent stadium lights.

Hall has said Prep officials had hoped to install the lights by football season.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

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Riverman1
113500
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Riverman1 05/17/11 - 08:34 pm
0
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Ah, the loophole...temporary

Ah, the loophole...temporary lights. How's midnight madness football practice sound? No regulations and no control without an agreement.

maandpa
504
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maandpa 05/17/11 - 09:07 pm
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Augusta Prep can have a

Augusta Prep can have a quality athletic program without 72 plus lights lighting up people's back yards, not including the noise that would accompany this from hosting football games and other athletic events. Jack Hall suggesting the use of temporary lights shows that Augusta Prep is not truly a "good neighbor" nor do they really care about the residents around them. The school pays no tax but must be making lots of money with their ambitious building program that has been going on. Thankfully, for those residents whose backyards are adjacent to the proposed site and for those residents who would be affected by the "happy cheering" and loud intercoms, the commissioners did the right thing to protect the peace and atmosphere of the neighborhood.

sawrigh2
0
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sawrigh2 05/17/11 - 09:26 pm
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I have to disagree maandpa,

I have to disagree maandpa, there is nothing like playing on Friday nights under the lights. Augusta Prep has every right to put up lights to give the kids the same conditions as the rest of the schools in the csra. Do you hear about the noise from the other high schools in the area who have stadiums near neighborhoods. Evans football's stadiums backs up to a subdivision, Lakeside's baseball stadium backs up to a subdivsion. Hephzibah's brand new stadium has people living right across the street and actually watch the games in their driveway. I will support Augusta Prep's decision on putting up portable lighting...oh wait, spring lakes will complain and columbia county will vote in favor of spring lakes, because they have money.

curly123053
6781
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curly123053 05/17/11 - 09:34 pm
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I think Augusta Prep needs to

I think Augusta Prep needs to look at moving their campus away from a bunch of neighbors not interested in their school. The "good neighbor" tag goes both ways here. It is normal and rational for Augusta Prep wanting to host athletic events on their school grounds as all the other schools already do. I live within shouting distance of South Aiken HS stadium and it has never been a huge problem for the 4 ot 5 home football games a year held there. I was here before they built that stadium too and I remember some of the same "what-ifs" of some people. But guess what? The "what-ifs" never happened. I think to many people like to find something to complain about.
I think Augusta Prep ought to just move their campus to a friendly county and away from a bunch of stuck-ups.

Jacksmom
0
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Jacksmom 05/17/11 - 09:39 pm
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I think someone has forgotten

I think someone has forgotten what it was like to be a high school student...quit being so up tight! Is it worth the sacrifice of a little noise and lights for 34 hours a year to give these kids something fun and safe to do on a Friday night? I think so.

lucky99mp
0
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lucky99mp 05/17/11 - 10:03 pm
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Lets see, we want better

Lets see, we want better schools offering more.... But no in my neighborhood.

maandpa
504
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maandpa 05/17/11 - 10:11 pm
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Sorry sawrigh2, your

Sorry sawrigh2, your reasoning is a little off. On Friday night, I am recuperating from my 50 hour work week. Can you sit on your porch and see a lighted football field right there? I doubt it. And by the way, I have relatives who live near Evans High School and can hear the band and the intercom, and they don't even live next door to the school at all, so I can't even fathom the thought of looking out my back window to a lighted, noisy football field.

woodymeister
736
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woodymeister 05/17/11 - 10:12 pm
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County schools do not fall

County schools do not fall under the same policy as private schools. If you want your kids to play football under the lights, simply send them to a public school in your own county. Moving the school as mentioned above will not help. Big checks from alumni (which is silly in itself) might help. But if you decide to move, expect Springlakes to buy the land....according to the poster above "because they have money".That's funny because that's what everyone says about augusta prep.

MrsSmith
0
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MrsSmith 05/17/11 - 10:31 pm
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Thank you Columbia County

Thank you Columbia County Commissioners. Springlakes has never been opposed to Aug.Prep having sports - just to night time events just a few feet from people's homes. Prep will continue to have football - just not at night unless they go off campus. Springlakes neighbors deserve to have a peaceful home at night - that's not asking too much. Prep has options, yet for hundreds of Springlakes residents the only option was to move. Besides, the whole idea of a football program at Prep is controversial - there are plenty of parents AGAINST the idea.

Chillen
17
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Chillen 05/17/11 - 10:38 pm
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I lived behind a very active

I lived behind a very active athletic complex in Atlanta for a few years. The evening lights and the cheers from the crowd made me happy and reminded me of the good times from my youth. But obviously that's just me.

MrsSmith
0
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MrsSmith 05/17/11 - 10:40 pm
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To Jacksmom: What were you

To Jacksmom: What were you going to do with your child the other 8000 plus hours a year that they weren't at Prep watching a night game that was disturbing hundreds of Springlakes residents. Find another option and deal with it. We want you to have football - just not in our backyards! I've been amazed at how Springlakes residents have been made out to be the villians. We just want to be able to enjoy our homes and our backyards - just as you do. I can't imagine how anyone would consider that unreasonable.

Greengolf
78
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Greengolf 05/18/11 - 05:17 am
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This is sad, and even more

This is sad, and even more sad that people like maandpa think that Augusta Prep pays no taxes. When will you wake up and understand that strong schools increase home values which increase the tax base. If you dont believe it, then look at Richmond County and their home values and its school system. By the way, why would Augusta Prep not pay property taxes?? The county commission needs to get some backbone and do what is good for the County.

john.q.publius
0
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john.q.publius 05/18/11 - 07:50 am
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The Commission has clearly

The Commission has clearly abused its power and voted to contradict the rule of law. The only reason to have entities like zoning and planning boards is to ensure that MY exercise of MY property rights does not infringe upon YOUR exercise of YOURS. The school also has property rights. Anyone who says that the lights will spill into neighbors' yards knows nothing, zero, not a thing about modern stadium lighting. Not only that, but in this case, you would have to make a special effort if you DID want to light the neighbors' yards, given the orientation of the field. The concern was never about lights, it was about noise. There is already a noise ordinance that the school must (and does) respect, as all schools must and do. However, since the residents have some connections in local government, they decided to use those connections and dishonorably use the lighting requirements to address their noise concerns. They should be ashamed, were they capable of feeling shame.

john.q.publius
0
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john.q.publius 05/18/11 - 07:58 am
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The planning/zoning

The planning/zoning commission clearly recognized that the school's plans fit well within the parameters established by the LAW. The county commissioners voted to contradict their own zoning board--to circumvent the law in favor of their personal CONNECTIONS. That's always nice when it goes your way, but when it doesn't, the same folks are the first ones to howl in protest. This school has always been extremely conscious of the need to be a good neighbor. It would be interesting to see how the surrounding neighborhood would react if the school ONLY limited itself to activities permitted under the law. They could fire up a PA system every night, right now, as long as it shuts down at 9:59 p.m. Mr. Miller--he of the snide remarks about "entitlement" at the first commission meeting two weeks ago--should examine his conscience, since the commission has now decided that every school in Columbia County EXCEPT this one is "entitled" to have lights and play football at night. Not only that, but the county effectively exempts its own board of ed. from jumping through similar hoops--the neighbors just have to sit down and shut up when the county wants to do this. But, hey, that's ok. One good ol' boy talked to some other good ol' boys, and the good ol' boys got it done. Business as usual, nothing to see here, sorry you all thought that the rule of law was there to protect all of us equally. Yes, the elegance and goodwill of Columbia County politics is a shining example for all the world to see...

john.q.publius
0
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john.q.publius 05/18/11 - 08:06 am
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MrsSmith--are you a Prep

MrsSmith--are you a Prep parent? Are you "against" football? I'm just curious...seems like any parent who is "against the idea" has a simple remedy--don't let your kid join the team. And as far as this idea that the school should just play elsewhere, let's look at that. Number one, the school has spent two years trying to find "elsewhere." I know that there is a perception that Augusta Prep is loaded, but that's simple ignorance. The fact of the matter is that the school is already having to send both varsity soccer teams "elsewhere." It's not like there's a lot of "elsewhere" out there where you can play Friday night football; the facilities that are available are of course, already booked on Friday nights. Think Lakeside is going to give up its stadium (you know, the one right next to people's houses?) on a Friday night so that Prep can play a football game? How about all the folks who suggest "elsewhere" quit talking in vague generalities and go make the phone calls to find out where "elsewhere" might be. Even leaving that aside, though, these are the first people who would shout down that argument if applied to them. Imagine if you wanted to build a pool in your backyard. You save up the money, hire the pool company to design it, go through the approval process, but then your neighbor asks the commission to block you because he's worried that you're going to have a bunch of noisy kids out there, lots of late night pool parties, etc. You agree in advance to severe limitations on your use of the pool, limited night swims, etc., etc., but your neighbor gets his buddies on the commission to deny the permit. "After all, I'm not opposed to you swimming. I just don't want a lot of noise and commotion right across from my back fence. And it's not like there aren't other places for you to swim. Why, you can go right over to the Y, or the Aquatics Center..."

Chillen
17
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Chillen 05/18/11 - 08:36 am
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I thought about this some

I thought about this some last night. I am not affected as I have no kids at Aug. Prep nor do I live in Springlake. However....this just does not pass the smell test.

Here we have government way overstepping their bounds and telling a PRIVATE business owner what they can and cannot do.

It's not like they were planning to dump toxic waste in a nearby stream and contaminate everyones drinking water. All they wanted were some lights for about 6 home football games per year.

We do not live in America anymore. We have become Amerika. At the federal, state AND county level. Government wants to control every aspect of our private and business lives. They are in control, not you.

Thanks again Columbia County commissioners for making another bad decision for freedom and business.

Augusta Prep - you should sue the county.

momma mia
1
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momma mia 05/18/11 - 08:41 am
0
0
I am a Prep parent, and I

I am a Prep parent, and I think a football program is one of the silliest ideas the school has had in years, and we've been there a LONG time. I don't blame Springlakes one bit for not wanting the noise and light pollution in their back yards.

TheArmyWife
0
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TheArmyWife 05/18/11 - 08:53 am
0
0
The commissioners are there

The commissioners are there to sort through issues and make decisions. The residents of Columbia County should be very displeased that Charles Allen decided not to vote.

Riverman1
113500
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Riverman1 05/18/11 - 09:00 am
0
0
The issue is whether lights

The issue is whether lights at school fields in the county, public or private, are acceptable. Lakeside installed baseball field lights well after houses were built around the area. Either it is a government function to curtail lights or it isn't. Private v. public should have no bearing.

john.q.publius
0
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john.q.publius 05/18/11 - 09:28 am
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momma mia, so if 5 prep

momma mia, so if 5 prep parents post comments in favor of lights, will that make you wrong in your beliefs? I ask, because many seem to think that the fact that 3 commissioners had an opinion--and voted based on their opinion--somehow validates their belief that some annoyed neighbors are in the right when they deny someone their property rights in violation of the law. Simply securing a vote on something does not mean that the outcome of that vote is in accordance with the law. Richmond County just paid a LOT of money to learn that lesson. We would all much prefer that there not be businesses like Xmart, and we certainly believe that our community is not enhanced or our property's value increased by the presence of such a business. The county could not find a legal way to deny them their right to conduct business, so they simply voted to deny. After years of legal wrangling and tens of thousands or more in legal bills, we learn that the county will now have to compensate that business. What the school wanted to do is certainly not on a par with Xmart, yet it is being treated in the same way. Even though it is clearly the school's right to build on its property, and even though not a SINGLE argument could be made against the LIGHTS (since the lights are demonstrably not the issue), the individuals in Spring Lakes and on the commission inappropriately used their power over lights to exercise power they do not properly have. Just because it's the result of a majority vote does not make it right, or even legal. That is in fact the reason we have a Constitution. You could look it up :)

csrareader
1288
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csrareader 05/18/11 - 09:33 am
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0
Ron Cross and his

Ron Cross and his conspirators had no problem approving the multimillion dollar athletic complex that will be built next to Lakeside High School subdivisions. Trey should have abstained due to a conflict of interest. County politics rears it's ugly head once again in Columbia County.

evans14
0
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evans14 05/18/11 - 11:03 am
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Momma mia, The football team

Momma mia,
The football team is 'silly'? Explain
If you don't let your kid play football, you are robbing him of one of the greatest opportunities a child can have.

Simplicity
0
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Simplicity 05/18/11 - 12:19 pm
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The real problem here is that

The real problem here is that the Springlake residents have been sold a bill of goods by a former commissioner who lives next to Prep. Of course there is noise because they live by a school. There might be a little more noise a few nights in the fall but nothing major. The lights are not an issue at all per the engineers, and that is a fact! This is a small school and these kids need to play football like all other high schools in the area are doing. I find it hard to believe that there is no sacrifice for a few hours a year for these kids to play football. It makes no sense other than there is an irrational fear in the neighborhood. I can hear football bands for miles away for few hours at my home and I deal with it and actually enjoy it because I know they are having fun and it will be over shortly. There should be some give and take here...Prep had the will to compromise and Springlakes did not. What a shame.....

lifetimeaikenite
0
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lifetimeaikenite 05/18/11 - 11:23 am
0
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Mrssmith, "We just want to be

Mrssmith, "We just want to be able to enjoy our homes and our backyards - just as you do. I can't imagine how anyone would consider that unreasonable." But everyone else who attends Augusta Prep just wants to be able to enjoy 34 HOURS OF FOOTBALL A YEAR!!!! Just like everyone else does. Did you read that correctly?????? A YEAR!!! Not a week, not a month.....A YEAR!!!!! I can't imagine how anyone would consider that unreasonable.

Gothamist
26
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Gothamist 05/18/11 - 01:09 pm
0
0
I am a prep parent and a

I am a prep parent and a Springlakes home owner. I want Friday night lights. I have a question for Trey Allen and for any and all who has the answer. - If the moonlight, peace and quiet are the prerequisite for and enjoyable Friday evening in Springlakes, why did your predecessor Mr. Tommy Mercer vote to approve the Gold Cross helicopter landing zone just to the east of springlakes and right on top of the Quail Creek Subdivision in February of 2008? The helicopter operates 24/7/365; just ask the people in Quail creek, and the southwest residents of springlakes who deal with this each day and night. Seems a bit curious to me? The operation of approved Football field lights would've been a mere fraction of the operational time of the Gold Cross helicopter debacle. Additionally, Mr. Allen I think your backyard backs up to Augusta Prep which would explain your fondness for baseball I guess. Enjoy your one term as commissioner. See you next election.

lifetimeaikenite
0
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lifetimeaikenite 05/18/11 - 11:54 am
0
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My first post was deemed to

My first post was deemed to harsh for some sensitive readers. So Here is the toned down version..........The people of Springlakes are wrong. Which was built first, the school or the sub-division? The School! But you decided to move there anyway!!!!! That is no different than you deciding to move next to an airport, then you decide that you don't like the sound of planes taking off, so you wine and complain, and get it passed so that the planes only take off and land while you are at work!!! That's ridiculous! You all should be ashamed of yourselves. I agree with John q. publius.... This is no different than one of YOUR neighbors complaining about your kids being too loud in the swimming pool. Or riding their skateboard in the neighborhood street! I only hope that Augusta Prep puts up temporary lights, and that the band's trumpets blow right up until 9:59pm (or whenever the law kicks in) Momma Mia...thinking football is a silly idea. If the school has enough students willing to participate in the sport then there is nothing wrong with it. In fact, you should probably be thanking them, because I am sure this brings in a lot of money for the school, which in turn, keeps your tuition costs lower.(Since you are a parent). I am sure without it, your costs would be much higher.

Sweet son
13885
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Sweet son 05/18/11 - 11:56 am
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0
My daughter attended a

My daughter attended a private school. She made good grades. She participated in Basketball, track and cross country all through her middle, highschool and college experience. Who says that sports are not a part of the education process??? She is 26 and has three degrees which include a Bachelors, Masters and a Docterate. She learned how to win and ultimately how to lose in sports. These life lessions learned in sports are invaluable! They have and will help her throughout life. The Springlakes folks and other folks are just selfish. I HOPE PREP GETS THEIR LIGHTS AND THE GUY COMPLAINING ABOUT HIS 50 HOUR WORKWEEK HAS TO GO TO A MOTEL! Passionate about this! You bet I am!!

mc66
0
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mc66 05/18/11 - 11:58 am
0
0
I would much rather hear the

I would much rather hear the cheers and band sounds than listen to the sound of traffic on Columbia Road. I would much rather my children walk around at a football game, and get exercise, than play a football game on the game console. Come on people, let the kids have some fun on a Friday night! I never miss a Friday night home game at Evans and my kids aren't even on the team, in the band, or a cheerleader! It's just fun!!! Why shouldn't these kids at Augusta Prep be able to have fun at their school on a Friday night? These schools only have like 5 home games a year, and they don't play at home every week. Would it kill you to listen to a little noise for a couple of Friday nights a month? Let the kids have their lights.

Riverman1
113500
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Riverman1 05/18/11 - 12:06 pm
0
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I have a pertinent point. I

I have a pertinent point. I watched the Commission meeting on TV when the issue was first brought up. Chairman Cross said it was important to realize the lights at Lakeside, Evans, etc. were approved by the Board of Education, not the Commission. It's a separate branch of county government, is how he described it. He was adamant that the Commission had nothing to do with those lights. So the Commission actually has no power if an educational entity decides to put lights up?

How do they draw the line to not get involved when the BOE decides to put up stupendous, baseball, football lights bordering neighborhoods, while saying they have the right to approve or disapprove modest lights at a private school? What am I missing here?

Gothamist
26
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Gothamist 05/18/11 - 12:07 pm
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Sweet Son, You Rock!!!Great

Sweet Son, You Rock!!!Great Post. Son #1 working on his first graduate degree.....right on the money.....and Charles Allen not voting, but fence sitting.....bad move Charles.

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