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.

Comments (86) Add comment
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750
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Barry Paschal 05/18/11 - 11:18 am
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Riverman1: The county

Riverman1: The county commission has no authority over school board property. As a private school on private property, Prep is subject to county zoning ordinances while public schools are not.

Riverman1
94210
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Riverman1 05/18/11 - 11:29 am
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Barry, sure I get their

Barry, sure I get their reasoning, but realistically, the county doesn't tell the private school how to do things internally either. And along those lines, if a public school were doing something like having bands play an all nighter, something would be done. It's a stretch to say the Commission has no control over what goes on at public school property.

Incidentally, not only did the Commission get involved with lights for the proposed new Lakeside fields, they are helping pay for them. There's an inappropriate double standard and to simply say the BOE can do what they want while private schools can't install modest lights is wrong. I think that would sound great in a lawsuit, too.

Simplicity
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Simplicity 05/18/11 - 11:27 am
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Barry you are correct.....but

Barry you are correct.....but how silly does Springlakes look? This s/d has no compassion for kids. Prep wanted to use the best lights with basically no spillage and only for a very limited number of Friday nights in the fall. They have been worked up into a frenzy over nothing. Sad to see the lack of compassion...If I lived there I am sure I could deal with a little noise a few times in the fall I mean really. We live in a me first world right now and that is a sad state.

Riverman1
94210
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Riverman1 05/18/11 - 01:18 pm
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Thanks to Barry for

Thanks to Barry for explaining to me how this separation of public school property from the auspices of Columbia County government works. I’m sure Ron Cross learned how important the BOE members are when his son-in-law, Mike Sleeper, was given a $2,000 campaign contribution by poor old Scott Dean.

This Vatican like designation of school property as being out of the control of the county must have led to the Commission being mum with the major upheaval the new tremendously high and bright lights at the new Lakeside stadium will cause. Our illustrious Chairman of the Commission got it down in the minutes of the Commission meeting that the BOE is out of county government control to make sure we all understand it like Scott Dean apparently does.

Maybe the schools could erect giant search lights and loud speakers telling us about the virtues of our BOE officials kind of like is done now in the water bill at county expense. I wonder if criminals will be taking sanctuary on school property and demanding extradition by the county when they are discovered? Maybe it’s best to let the criminals stay there since the legal fees the county will have to pay fighting this absurd concept will be astronomical and save the money to continue to fight Augusta Prep wanting to use four sets of lights 90 ft high a few times a year.

csrareader
1288
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csrareader 05/18/11 - 01:49 pm
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I suggest that Augusta Prep

I suggest that Augusta Prep start hosting Friday night concerts on their football field. You don't need bright stadium lights for concerts -- just let the promoters bring in their spot lights and speaker systems. Springlakes will then beg them to install the football lights.

john.q.publius
0
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john.q.publius 05/18/11 - 02:01 pm
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csrareader, that, and some

csrareader, that, and some really big track or cross-country invitationals, maybe a half-dozen or so each season. Nothing like that cranked up PA at 7 am...well past the 6 am limit imposed by the noise ordinance, naturally. After all, if we're going to get all legalistic about this, we would not want to break the law...

curly123053
5396
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curly123053 05/18/11 - 02:17 pm
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Springlakes is wrong here and

Springlakes is wrong here and the County Commission is doubly wrong for this action. If Springlakes was built AFTER the school then I have to say what Augusta Prep does on their school grounds is none of anybody's business, especially the Columbia County Commission. I think the County would lose if this ever went to court. I see some unethical actions done by County Commission members in relation to this case.

steelerbud1
30
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steelerbud1 05/18/11 - 02:29 pm
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WOW.....it seems to me that

WOW.....it seems to me that there are things going on in spring lakes that someone does not want anyone to see!!!! I mean really!!! I have seen many individuals who live there downtown on 1st friday.....lights down there don't seem to bother them. I think it is a personal problem or some type of jealously on someones part there. Maybe their child was not excepted there.....lol....get real spring lakes

lifetimeaikenite
0
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lifetimeaikenite 05/18/11 - 02:51 pm
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What about the fact that

What about the fact that Spring Lakes has no problem with the crowds that gather and park during the swim meets!! Spring Lakes host two or three swim meets every year with people having to park all along the curbing and clogging the streets!!! I know first hand that these meets last after dark and there are lights around the pool!! Hummmm can anyone say double standard?????

curly123053
5396
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curly123053 05/18/11 - 02:59 pm
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DOUBLE STANDARD !! loud

DOUBLE STANDARD !! loud enough ??

Riverman1
94210
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Riverman1 05/18/11 - 03:02 pm
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Spring Lakes is being

Spring Lakes is being incredibly selfish in all this. They may even like walking over to the games. Heck, I'd like that. It could become the neighborhood's team.

The argument that the public schools belong to the BOE and not the county, thus able to make their own rules doesn't hold water. Lights and noise are the same whether it comes from a private or public school. By the way, do public school games always end by 10 PM? No, heck no. But most of us are understanding enough not to make a fuss about good kids playing a game.

happychimer
19565
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happychimer 05/18/11 - 03:04 pm
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Yep I was right. My post was

Yep I was right. My post was removed too.

Just My Opinion
6292
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Just My Opinion 05/18/11 - 03:28 pm
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I find it interesting that so

I find it interesting that so many people on here are down on the Springlakes residents when you actually do not know all the reasons why it is that they don't want football games being held at Prep. Don't get me wrong, I do see both sides of this issue. Prep wants to play, but according to some doctor who had earlier written a letter to the Columbia NewsTimes, only a couple of dozen fans would be showing up to the games? If that's part of his argument for the installation of lights, it's a pretty sorry one. I know many Springlakes residents who live up against the Prep border, and each one has told me that Prep is NOT a good neighbor...kids leaving trash and cigarette butts on their property and even urinating on their bushes!? A couple of them even called the Prep office about it, but nothing was done. So, in light of these sort of things, can you blame the residents for not wanting football games that would gather MORE kids there? Bottom line is that it is a shame, and I hope they can work something out. But give the Springlakes residents a break...they are good people and they LOVE their kids (that was for Simplicity who said they didn't have compassion for kids).

lifetimeaikenite
0
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lifetimeaikenite 05/18/11 - 03:46 pm
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Sorry....not getting a pity

Sorry....not getting a pity party from me. I understand, and agree that leaving litter on the ground and urinating in the bushes is not acceptable. But why does it matter how many people show up for games? If there are students who want to play football for the school and the school is willing to support them, it doesn't matter if the stands are empty. They are not playing the game for the spectators, this is for the students. Remember this is not the NFL.

MrsSmith
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MrsSmith 05/18/11 - 03:53 pm
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Many of you don't have the

Many of you don't have the facts. This isn't a traditional field in a "bowl." It's open and sits 12 feet above the neighboring property. The sound and light will be tremendous. Prep students have done without night football for 50 years. In fact they've done without football for 50 years. No student at Prep enrolled expecting to have home night football games. And it's not just football. Now they want to have night soccer games. Thankfully three commissioners agreed that the impact of those lights and accompanying noise would be detrimental to the neighborhood. Prep wants what it wants how it wants it. They say they want to be good neighbors. Good neighbors don't infringe on my right to enjoy my home peacefully. By the way, I don't live near the school, but I've taken the time to understand the situation. It's not just about some kids not playing under the lights.

msgret92
121
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msgret92 05/18/11 - 04:27 pm
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Columbia County Voters will

Columbia County Voters will have these antics forgotten by the next election cycle and vote the same crew or their cronies back in.

Sweet son
11727
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Sweet son 05/18/11 - 05:03 pm
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Per my first comment my

Per my first comment my daughter learned "life lessons" through sports. She did not attend Prep but we were graciously invited to particapate in track and cross country meets there. We were not the richest people there but we were treated like kings and queens! They are good folks. The cross country coach even kept up with my daughter and pulled for her as she transitioned from high school to college cross country. They specialize in academics but they also specialize in life.

evans14
0
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evans14 05/18/11 - 05:32 pm
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Mrs. Smith, without any trees

Mrs. Smith, without any trees between the houses and the field, the light in their backyards would be less than the light given off by a full moon. Add in the trees and you have even less light than that. And about the noise, the noise won't be any louder than it already is, just later at night.

ily
0
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ily 05/18/11 - 05:51 pm
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I'm a high schooler at Prep

I'm a high schooler at Prep and all we want to do is have a normal friday night football game like other high schools. We are a small school but that doesn't mean we should not have a football team. Sophomore year, before we even had a football team, my friends and I went to other high school football games. And we didn't even go there! A football team means the world to us and playing under the lights would mean even more. We more than welcome the Springlakes residents to come and partake in our football games. Even if we never receive (low beam) football lights, we will still enjoy our football team and travel wherever they go.

jankenpo30
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jankenpo30 05/18/11 - 06:55 pm
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MrsSmith: "Many of you don't

MrsSmith: "Many of you don't have the facts. This isn't a traditional field in a "bowl." It's open and sits 12 feet above the neighboring property. The sound and light will be tremendous"

If we are speaking facts...

1) football fields are not "traditionally" in a bowl.

2) The calculated values of light level at its peak along the property was 0.7 footcandles. The average was 0.3. A footcandle of light is the amount of light one candle puts out in a 1' radius. This value did not include any of the trees along the property edge.

3) The 12'-0" drop in elevation actually helps the light value drop even further as your point of reference move even further away from the lamp source.

The amount of light in the adjoining property has been grossly exaggerated in this matter by those against the lighting.

The woman stating at the commission meeting that residents could be exposed to potential hearing loss as result of sound from the field. NOT FACT.

cavaliersno1
0
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cavaliersno1 05/18/11 - 08:31 pm
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I am a student at Prep. And

I am a student at Prep. And fully understand why springlakes would not want this, however we are only asking for a few hours a year. The football team means so much to us at Prep, and in my opinion has made the school an even better place. We have outstanding students at school, who do for our community. This field is for us the youth, who will be running this country one day. Our entire school has worked so hard for our program, the boys on the team , the staff , and all of the other students. We just want to be able to enjoy friday night football under the lights, just like everyone does. I have always dreamed of friday night football, and it is heartbreaking to know that we can't have it. A lot of us go to Friday night football games at other schools. And to have our own would be one of the greatest things in the world. Football teaches so many life lessons for our boys, and brings the whole school together. We respect our springlakes neighbors, but we want them to remember this is for the kids.People don't understand how much the SIX games would mean to all of us. Our football team doesn't go into a huddle, and shout, PREP or APDS, they shout FAMILY, because our football is a family. This may only be taking away twenty hours of "noise" but making us lose a LIFETIME OF MEMORIES!!!!

Onricandi
0
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Onricandi 05/18/11 - 07:38 pm
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I am a parent with a child

I am a parent with a child attending Prep. I have read the comments posted and it is disheartening. I graduated from a small town in Georgia in the Public school system and it was great for me. But today because people did not want change they did not want things to change for the school and town, people stopped moving in because whether you believe it or not younger generations move in because of the school systems which is money for the continued upkeep of the community in the form of taxes. Unfortunately for my children our education system due to a continued lack of funds many of our programs are being cut, I do not care for the attitudes of the staff or for what is becoming the masses of "I am entitled" attitude of our children. Our children were taken out of Columbia County public schools for "many" and "serious" reasons and enrolled in Prep for academic, discipline and their athletic opportunities. Our great country was founded on many opportunities for all and it is sad that certain parents do not care for football prefer to ensure that on the parents whose children are interested. As long as children are involved in activities that are healthy we should be happy and encouraging those activities. If a few students are doing things that are not appropriate then I am sorry but we must be honest with ourselves and remember that not all students behave in that manner. As Prep students predominately are well behaved. I am not well off by no means and for my family having my son play football as he is interested in the evenings means the world to me because my husband and I work full time, scrimping and saving to keep him in Prep but our other responsibility as a parent is to be there physically, cheering him on and having games before 5PM will not allow us to do that. I do not want to infringe on the Springlakes Community but I as a parent can be there and ensure that my child is conducting himself appropriately because we all know for the most part. Parental guidance is a big part of the key of ensuring good behavior. I pray that this issue will be re-looked and that together as a community in the way we are supposed to come together to raise our future generations we can resolve this.

LeeciLoo
0
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LeeciLoo 05/18/11 - 07:45 pm
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I grew up in SpringLakes -

I grew up in SpringLakes - they are a feisty bunch. The section surrounding Prep was built long after Prep (aka Augusta Country Day) owned the land. People living along Quail Springs Circle got really mad when Prep decided to fence Prep's property in its entirety - the folks in SpringLakes had considered the unfenced area as part of "their" backyards and were landscaping accordingly. That being said, I understand not wanting the lights and/or noise but the kids at Prep should not be shorted on the same experiences as other schools just because a few do not wish to be bothered. This is comparable to the people who buy land that backs up to commercial property and are then upset about a large box store and parking lot taking over "their" backyard.

john.q.publius
0
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john.q.publius 05/18/11 - 07:49 pm
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I have also had occasion to

I have also had occasion to attend events at Augusta Prep and to be back in the area by the houses that abut the school's property. The first thing I noticed was that, on the school's side of the property line fence, there were frequently high concentrations of dog piles directly across from homes with dogs in the backyard. I'm not sure that it is helpful to try and pin down who is being a "bad neighbor," since I'm not sure that the homeowners would come out winning in that comparison. I'm also not sure how we are to believe that students are smoking and urinating on surrounding property during school hours--that seems unlikely to me. I would bet, though, that the school probably has the same problems that our neighborhood school has with people going on their property at night and on weekends. Might explain some of that behavior. I may be naive, but it just doesn't ring true to me that students during the school day are going over to pee on someone's bushes.

MrsSmith
0
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MrsSmith 05/18/11 - 07:50 pm
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Play football. Play on your

Play football. Play on your field. Just confine it to the daytime like you have been doing. Knowing the neighborhoods feelings about night games, why would you insist on using the fields at night for soccer and track? If football is all you really want then limit it to 4 home games and make sure the lights are off by 10 p.m. Anyone enrolled at Prep knew there wasn't a lighted football stadium. If the experience of playing football under the lights is so important, why would these parents have deliberately denied their children that experience? Of course they didn't, it wasn't a priority. Why is it now?

the queen
0
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the queen 05/18/11 - 08:03 pm
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I'm not sure if any of our

I'm not sure if any of our commissioners have children or grandchildren and have ever gone to cheer them on at a sporting event, but if they do, what hypocrites they will be when they step foot in a stadium to watch them play. Unless that particular school is surrounded by a cemetery, they will be contributing to the very thing they voted against last night. The lights and the noise will more than likely affect at least one family. What a double standard!

evans14
0
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evans14 05/18/11 - 08:21 pm
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Mrs. Smith, Augusta Prep

Mrs. Smith, Augusta Prep isn't talking about using them for soccer games or track meets, they were just addressing the possibility that if those events did for some reason run on longer than normal, Springlakes wouldn't get even more angry about how Prep was only talking about football games. What I understand is that Augusta Prep isn't planning on using them for anything other than football games.

MrsSmith
0
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MrsSmith 05/18/11 - 08:26 pm
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They want 20 night events

They want 20 night events that include football, a few soccer games and a couple of track meets. If you don't believe me, just ask Jack Hall. That's straight from him. If this was just regular season home football games it might be a completely different story.

evans14
0
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evans14 05/18/11 - 08:34 pm
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That may be what he meant,

That may be what he meant, but I was under the impression that he was just making sure that all the possibilities were covered. I've been to track meets and soccer games there and neither of them run to a time late enough to necessitate lights.

curly123053
5396
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curly123053 05/18/11 - 08:48 pm
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This is nothing more than

This is nothing more than selfishness. Home games 5 to 6 days a year out of 365 days is not going to kill anybody in Springlakes. Friday night football is a big thing for all area high schools, but Springlakes wants to keep their noses to the sky and keep their chests puffed up and deny Augusta Prep the same for 5 days out of 365 days a year. I cannot believe the Columbia County Commission sided with Springlakes when all the other stadiums abut neighborhoods too. I always thought the Columbia County Commission was more down to earth than that. But I was wrong I guess. This is a sad example of prideful people playing the roll of bullies.

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