Augusta Prep denied football light request

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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