Athletic Field Upgrade Plan Sparks Neighborhood Spat

by ARLnow.com December 30, 2010 at 2:25 pm 6,860 95 Comments

What happens when a parochial high school, which has owned its 20-acre tract of land in North Arlington since 1949, plans to upgrade its athletic facilities with the help of a local university? A full-blown neighborhood controversy, of course.

Bishop O’Connell High School wants to spend $6 million renovating its football and baseball fields. The renovations would add new artificial turf to the football field, making it doubly usable as a regulation soccer field.

The renovations would also add lights to both fields, so they can be used after the sun goes down. The school has agreed to limit hours of use, however.

Nearby Marymount University will help pay for the renovations, in exchange for use of the fields.

Enter the neighbors, who are worried about increased traffic and “commotion” in the area, especially at night.

“Realtors expect decline in home values,” blares a headline from a blog set up for the sole purpose of opposing the renovations.

“Petition drive shows strong opposition to O’Connell plan,” reads another, announcing that more than 250 people signed a petition opposing the plan.

The petition was signed by many people who don’t even live next to the school.

“[Signature gatherers] have found a large percentage of residents opposed to the proposal, including many who live outside the immediate streets around O’Connell,” the blog stated.

In an interview with TBD, one vocal neighbor and Williamsburg Civic Association member said he moved to the neighborhood under the assumption that the high school — and Tuckahoe Elementary School, across the street — would remain quiet after school hours.

“I’ve lived in the neighborhood 25 years now, and when I moved in, I was concerned about the high school,” the resident said. “But I talked to the neighbors, and they said it wasn’t hard to come to grips with the commotion during the day. It was a factor in my moving here.”

The county board is expected to consider the school’s renovation proposal at its Jan. 22 meeting.

Unanswered question: At what point is the desire of homeowners to maintain the neighborhood status quo outweighed by the desire of a long-time landowner to upgrade their facilities?

  • Partly Cloudly

    This one should be fun. Wonder how the CB will react to this one? My guess is that both schools have much more money than American Flatbread did…

  • kr

    My childhood home was two streets over from a high school stadium. Friday nights the streets would be lit up like day and you could hear the announcer, cheering, and cannon blasts from the football game. My family actually thought it was pretty cool!

    I don’t understand why Arlington residents get so crazy about noise around their houses (Westover Beer Garden is another example). Get over it and let your neighbors have some fun!

    • ClarGirl

      We could hear the cheers and marching band from the high school a mile away and as kids we thought it was pretty cool. High school games are over by 10 pm anyways. It’s not like the lights are on all night.

  • hmmm…

    and Ronald Coase turned 100 yesterday…

    • mkt common

      Lol, I definitely consider the noise that accompanies living near a school to be a negative externality.

  • NorthAdams

    how absurd. a private school. everyone drives (they used to bus the kids). Marymount and O’Connell are a perfect match.
    PLUS it gives us back Quincy Field — which is the main reason the board will support this effort.
    And dont forget that Babs works for Marymount.

    • Arlingtonthen

      1. Many O’Connell students use the metro to go to school everyday. 2. The athletic teams are driven to games after school by mini busses. 3. O’Connell has lots of parking for visitors to home games so overflow should not affect the neighbors.

  • Bluemont John

    The real question should be: Shouldn’t the ability of people to live in peace and quiet outweigh the desires of an institution to expand? Especially when the expansion is for a recreational purpose, and not a real public need (such as a hospital expansion)?

    Kr: You may not mind noise, but everyone should have the right to choose what kind of neighborhood they want to live in. If you like a lot of hubub, there are many neighborhoods like that. This area has been tranquil for a long time. It’s not like they live in Rosslyn or DuPont.

    • Burger

      i received the inane letter promoting the blog a few weeks ago and went to the blog. I rather enjoyed a small group of people’a attempt at trying to make the appearance of a larger group in opposition to what is a smart idea. There entire basis of opposition was light pollution, and alleged increase in traffic in complete ignorance of the number of cars that use the side street around the school already.

      First, the school and the field were built there long before homes were there and is akin to the people that complain about the Mobil station at Lee and Washington that has been there for 50 years when they moved in 5 years ago.

      Second, you are talking about at most 10 homes they bump up across the subject playing fields.

      Third, with the ever increasing fill-in – under smart growth – recreational areas need to become multi-use areas and be used by more people during more hours. I see no problem with a private school teaming up with a university to get the infrastructure built.

      Fourth, the blog cites to “hundreds” of cars that will come into the neighborhood at 11 PM – to attend university soccer, field hockey, etc games. Not to burst the bubble of DIII athletes but hundreds of people do not attend this events more like 50-100 at most attend – and those are usually family.

      Fifth, what is going to happen at the EFC development occurs. For all the talk of EFC being a suburb it is all of 4 miles from DC and 2 miles from Ballston and key transportation junction with highly valuable real estate that is going unused.

      This essentially amounts to a 4 year throwing a hissy fit when they don’t get their way.

      • Loving Mom

        That blog is the work (i mean opinion) of Bill Adair a journalist who covers political fact checking. He lives directly across the street from O’Connell and bought his property in 1997. It has all kinds of “facts” which are provided by his own “studies” most of which are opinion polls from his neighbors.

    • Burger

      The long standing point many liberals make on this board to conservatives that talk about not being representated on the county board is to — MOVE.

  • Rosslyn Resident

    Here, here! I mean, if I lived next to a high school, I would EXPECT light and noise pollution at night during sports season. Who wouldn’t? And who cares if a high school wants to modernize their facilities. It’s something I would expect.

    Arlington is essentially a city under a county structure. If you compare Arlington with DC, both jurisdiction’s population densities are nearly the same. Yes, we can get some quiet in areas of the county, but I agree with Burger–if you want peace and quite, then MOVE. Preferably to an exburb. It’s cheaper there, anyway.

  • Growth

    The board doesnt seem to mind approving additional residential or office density in other areas that encumbers property values of neighboring sites, why would they care about this one?

  • g_clifford_prout

    There are just some folks that don’t want to see things change. They need to get over it and realize that when things cease to change they’re dead. I can only imagine what Arlington would look like today if they dairy farmers and brickyard owners whined about all the “development” taking place around them. I’ve see pictures of Arlington early last century. It wasn’t pretty.

  • bredmond

    I say, let’s get this moving!! I have lived about 2 blocks from Washington-Lee High school for some 20 years and I was very skeptical when the county spent about $1 million to refurbish the athletic (mostly for football) field, the field’s lights and track. I couldn’t be happier about the results. Though I don’t personally use the field or track, it is open for public use until 10PM most nights and very well used. Plus, with the new lights (sans one) I don’t have the glare of the athletic field shining into my home.

  • Mike

    I have lived a few blocks from Washington-Lee HS for years, and the noise and “commotion” are no big deal. Yes, on game nights, I can sometimes hear the announcer or some cheering, but the games are occasional, they only last a few hours, and everything is over by 10:00pm. Adding lights to this athletic field is not going to turn the neighborhood into some sort of crazy party zone – that’s just silly.
    More generally, the idea that people should be able to “choose what kind of neighborhood they want to live in” sounds superficially appealing, but when you think about it, it doesn’t really make sense. We only control ourselves; we do not get to control other people. Individual homeowners do not get dictate who lives near them or control what their neighborhood is like. The world changes, and communities change – that’s just life. Some changes are good – I don’t hear anyone complaining that construction of the Orange Line back in the day hurt their property values. If neighborhoods change in a way that some residents don’t like, then yes, they should consider moving. And if some of the longtime residents think that is unfair, and that they are being hurt by the change in the neighborhood, I’m sure there are a lot of us who would be delighted to take their houses off their hands for them at the prices they paid 10, 15, or 20 years ago.

    • Zoning Victim

      Unfortunately Mike, you are incorrect about neighbors having no say about their neighborhood and this case shows just that. I can tell you from experience that they way the zoning office and board of zoning appeals aproach things in Arlington is to have a committee meeting on everything you do and one single person’s complaint will get your proposal rejected whether there is a legal reason for it or not. This is one of the things I sincerely hope that the county board fixes when they redo the zoning regulations.

  • North Arl

    If O’C can makerhe field look like one if the public high schools I am all for it. If you are concerned with parking and traffic be like the residents near Yorktown HS and make it zone parking around the building. Some people in this county just need to get with the times. The residents in this county block most things from moving forward. If you place a park in Arlington it will cause traffic get over it

    • jan


  • Not A NIMBY

    It is about time that those facilities were renovated!

    What is disappointing is to see how restrictive the plan is for the lighting.

    Go ahead and turn them on Sunday nights.
    Keep them on until 10pm weekdays and 11pm on weekend nights.

    And open the fields (not just the track) to the public during the non-school use periods.

    Then it would be a definite asset to the community!

    • Arl Resident

      O’Connell will only open the track to residents who have been vetted through some sort of process. I don’t see the county high schools requiring some sort of background check to walk on their track.

      • WCA Arl Resident

        Arl Resident – where did this information come from that they have to “vet” people before using the track? I don’t see how this is logistically possible and it would be a huge financial burden on the school to really “vet” anyone who wants to use the track. Further, according to their website and their proposed MOU (in addition to what’s been said at the meetings) is that they would open the track whenever it was not in use, and they would also open the track during the school day. So, please provide the source, otherwise it’s another thing to add to the list of inaccurate facts spread by a few fanatics in the neighborhood.

        • Another WCA Resident

          O’Connell reps have told the neighborhood in meetings that there would be some sort of vetting or approval to use the track. And, it’s understandable, because they are a private institution. They face issues of liability (which is why neighborhood children can’t ride bikes on the O’Connell parking lot). The Diocese also has a child protection requirement for its schools. So, as a private institution, they can’t provide the same open access provided by a public school.

  • BoredHouseWife

    Seriously, O’Connell needs this. I remember we had to go to other HS for big games.

    • Neighbor

      O’Connell renovated its stadium and put in better seating in the 1990s. Since then, all home games have been in the afternoons. The football team plays teams in the WCAC; most of those schools also have no lights, so it is well accepted in their conference to have afternoon games.

      When O’Connell was first built, their permit was issued only after they had agreed not to light the field; it was reasonable that those who bought into the neighborhood expected that restriction to continue.

      While no one in the neighborhood begrudges the school the ability to upgrade and modernize their facilities, this does not have to include lights, night play, and continuous renting out of the space. This represents a huge departure from previous use of that space, and the neighbors have a legitimate right to question it.

      • Fact Check

        I think you would have more legitimate concerns if your assertions were factually correct – the property deeds and titles indeed have no restriction on lights at all. This topic has been addressed (and someone from the neighborhood even had a title search done, FYI). Further, just because some other schools in the WCAC don’t have lights, how in any way does that have any bearing on O’C wanting to install lights?

        The neighborhood does have a legitimate right to be concerned, and it appears O’C is bending over backwards to alleviate some of those concerns. But try getting your facts straight.

        • Neighbor

          My facts are indeed straight. I said agreement, not CCR’s or anything having to do with the sale of the land. In the late 1950s, the diocese made a written promise to the neighborhood that they would not seek lights. It was only after this was done that the County Board approved the permits. However, O’Connell is saying that the agreement was only to those particular homeowners, and, since the original homeowners have all moved or passed away, they do not feel they must adhere to that agreement today.

      • Burger

        Some WCAC schools don’t have home fields – like DeMatha so should O’connell not have a field, too?

        It is a dumb argument to state what other schools in the conference has or doesn’t have.

        • Lester

          Because DJO keeps bringing up the idea of “parity”. One of the arguments being used by O’Connell for the lights is that they want “parity” with other schools and that they need it to be competitive. Since it was pointed out that most of the other Catholic schools in their league also play without lights, as well as several other suburban Virginia and Maryland public schools, they have amended their argument to protest that they want “parity” with the Arlington public schools. Since most of their students are from Fairfax County and elsewhere outside the county, however, and would not be going to Arlington public schools in any circumstance, that seems like a reach (not to mention that most people send their child to Catholic school for the ways in which they are different from public schools, not the same). Their own conference seems a better comparison if you want to argue parity.

          • YHS Neighbor

            That’s not entirely true – their argument with parity really pertained to the fact that if all other Arlington high schools (whether public or not) have lighted fields, why can’t they?

            Also, if every institution or school system or university was constantly being compared from within, there would be no such thing as “progress”. 10 years ago APS high schools didn’t have brand new state of the art buildings, but they had to start improving somewhere. And that started with W-L, continued at YHS, and will soon happen at Wakefield.

  • JimPB

    It’s reasonable that the school would want to upgrade its outdoor facilities. It should be able to do so. And it’s reasonable for the school to open the fields to others (presumably for a fee for games) to help recoup some of the costs. For those in the area who will use the fields, this could well address a need for such a close by resource. Hopefully the track and fields can be open to general use when the school is not using them.

    It is also reasonable that neighbors would want the
    lights and loud speakers positioned and directed so as to minimize light and noise pollution. This should be required if the County approves a permit.

    It is also reasonable that neighbors would be concerned about the hour at which games end and fans disperse, especially on nights before school days. 8 pm should be an acceptable game ending time.

  • Skeptical

    I’m really gobsmacked by the people who say “If you don’t like it then move.”

    Really? Go through the Hell of selling and buying, redesigning your life, uprooting yourself, disrupting your relationships — because people want to have “fun” and make noise? How loud and obnoxious does it have to be before someone says Enough? An airfield? A firing range?

    Where in the Constitution does it say that people who want to be loud and disruptive should always get their way? Just wonderin’.

    • Bluemont John


    • Dan


  • Suburban Not Urban

    “At what point is the desire of homeowners to maintain the neighborhood status quo outweighed by the desire of a long-time landowner to upgrade their facilities? ”

    It’s very simple – in each and every case. The status quo is a social contract that you sign up for when you purchase/move in to the neighborhood – it’s the principal behind zoning.

    @Burger – touches on the key point here – the board’s mixed use/high density development policies are completely responsible for these issues and until the main body of residents realizes that the current issue may not be right next to your home, but the next one might be – and one definitely will be soon – the board will keep on doing this because it keeps adding more residents that want to live in this kind of high density environment.

  • Jason S.

    I would rather hear a high school game than the herds of screaming fat harpies and the whooping of underdeveloped 30 year old frat boys in denial that I hear now from the buildings around me.

  • TGEoA

    Why doesn’t this article mention that Favola works for Marymount which is going to use these facilities as well?

    Conflict of interest.

  • Charlie

    people don’t realize that O’Connell plays football at W-L and other places because their stadium sucks. Marymount plays baseball next to Arlington Library.
    Why should other neighborhoods have to be burdened?

    A reasonable solution is very easy in this case. Calm down everyone.

    As for “then move” people. You are obnoxious. But if you live in Arlington and want a bucolic life free of everything — you should consider your long term plans. But you aren’t going to get what you get in Arlington anywhere else. Everyone I know who has moved in a “snit” has totally regretted it.

    • Neighbor

      O’Connell has not played home games at other stadiums in years. Home games are held on the O’Connell field, which was renovated some time ago to accomodate sufficient seating for home games. However, like the other schools in their WCAC conference (most of which do not have lighted fields either), O’Connell has its football games on Saturday afternoons.

  • JimPB

    Change is what is constant. So, the question is, how to get the most good out of change and minimize the bad.

    For BOC, there’s the private good of significantly upgraded outdoor athletic facilities. As others have noted, BOC home football games on Friday nights would probably not impose a significant hardship on neighbors.

    But BOC is apparently planning on more extensive uses, probably to help with the costs of the new facilities and its maintenance. Marymount University, which needs more outdoor athletic space, would use the new BOC facility. The nature, extent and times of those uses for a private good have yet to be reported. The new BOC facilities might also attract other schools without lights for their outdoor athletic fields to BOC for night games (these games would not involve BOC teams). BOC has also mentioned a collaboration with ArlCo Recreation for the use of the BOC facilities. The extent and times of these public good uses have yet to be reported. (It is also unclear whether there would be general access to the track and fields as, e.g., at Yorktown, when the school is not using them.)

    So, the proposed BOC facilities could be in use many evenings, and there might be two of more games in sequence. These games would generate more than the occasion Friday night home football game noise. And while no one game might draw so many that parking on BOC grounds would be insufficient, a sequence of games could well result in an excess of cars and traffic congestion around BOC. (I’ve seen this elsewhere.)

    So neighbors and the community do have legitimate concerns about the extent of use and the hours at which games would end for the day, and provisions for managing traffic and parking on the streets around BOC (permit parking is fine, but this restriction needs to be visible to drivers at night, and there needs to be enforcement). There’s also the matter of the unsightly litter that often spews out of the athletic area. How will this be minimized?

  • Rosslyn Resident

    JimPB: Finally! Someone with good reasons behind a possible opposition to the upgrade. If you haven’t already, you should read the proposal. I think it’s really quite reasonable and has the school bending over backwards for the neighbors. I don’t think the school wants to hurt or upset the neighborhood, it just wants to have an athletic field that isn’t from the 1950s.

    Suburban Not Urban: First off, Arlington is absolutely an urban place, not a suburban place. Next, and really more importantly, the purpose of zoning laws is not to maintain the status quo of neighborhoods, but rather to allow for a menu of options to developers when change is needed. Zoning laws can be changed as the surrounding area changes. If it weren’t for changes in zoning, the Ballston to Rosslyn corridor would still look like the Columbia Pike corridor. That change was good. Look at how the nearby houses appreciated greatly in value, and how they are still extremely valuable, even after the housing bubble.

  • DJO Neighbor

    I don’t think many of the neighbors would object to the upgrade of the fields if the plans didn’t include a major change in use profile, both in terms of constant late night hours and significantly increased volume. There has been a lot of talk of real estate trends in the comments above. Over the past several years, literally dozens of families with young children – including mine – have moved into the immediate neighborhood, replacing the original residents as they retired, expired, or just took advantage of a booming market. This is not a typical “Arlington demographic,” if there is such a thing. We came here for the quiet, kid-friendly neighborhood in an excellent public school district. I wonder how many commenters who believe all of Arlington is like Rosslyn have ever actually been to this neighborhood or the many others like it in the County. For any reader who actually has children, I am sure you understand what the prospect of lights and loud athletic events at night will have on our lives. Even the school’s compromise, back from the 11PMx365 days that they originally wanted, is to have half the complex open and lit until 10PM on weekdays and 10:30PM on weekends.

    Dozens of studies show the impact that a lack of sleep has on kids’ health and academic performance. The County zoning ordinance clearly states that the request cannot be approved if it causes “harm” to the neighboring residents. Property value drop or no, if my child can’t get the sleep needed, that does harm to me as a resident. The County school textbooks state that elementary school kids need at least 10 hours of sleep at night. If you do the math, you’ll see that doesn’t mesh with the proposed lighting hours. Add the traffic (and safety issues that go with it), parking, etc. and you can see why the neighbors are concerned. This is not just a couple of angry guys, this is a large number of young families concerned about their kids.

    One final and critical point. Sure, O’Connell is a, “long time land owner.” They, as a private, religious institution, don’t pay property taxes. We do. In addition, LESS THAN 15% of their students are Arlington County residents. Out of more than 1,000 students, you can count the kids who live in the same zip code as the school on one hand! So why should their interests completely override the interests of the taxpaying, voting neighbors before the County Board?

    • ArlG

      White noise sound machines work wonders. Seriously.

  • Another DJO Neighbor

    DJO Neighbor:

    Don’t you think that you should have exerted some common sense when purchasing a home right by a fairly large high school? Surely you can’t expect the school to stay EXACTLY the same forever? Surely you can’t expect the school not to want to improve it’s infrastructure, just as W-L and Yorktown (the high school your children will most likely go to) have already done?

    Imagine the parents who live right by the other County high schools feel? In fact, if you talk to many of them, the problems are “no big deal.” And, many of those families, also with young children, sleep and function just fine. And oh by the way, Yorktown and W-L are allowed (and often do) leave their lights on past 10:00pm on weeknights and 10:30pm on weekends. Also, it’s awfully narrow-minded of you to expect that your children can go to Yorktown with amazing athletic facilities and not expect the DJO students to want the same thing.

    Also, does Yorktown High School or W-L, as high school institutions pay taxes? The answer is clearly NO. In addition, the “less than 15%” of DJO’s population who live in Arlington DO pay taxes for our children to have great facilities. Further, just because your kids won’t attend DJO doesn’t mean you should discount the social benefit of having DJO in the neighborhood. How many DJO students tutor elementary students at Tuckahoe? How many community service hours are given by DJO students to the greater Arlington community? (They are the only high school in Arlington to have a strict mandate for community service)? Also, how about their annual Superdance which raises over $300,000 for Cystic Fibrosis (which, oh by the way, supports children in our very own neighborhood). I don’t have any personal connections to DJO but these are still things just off the top of my head I can think of.

    Bottom line, if you thought when purchasing your house that this school wasn’t going to improve and modernize its facilities and fields in coming years, you clearly were misguided. If anything, you should consider yourself lucky it took the school this long to even want lights and new fields.

    • Yorktown HS Neighbor POV

      Right on! And reading this has prompted me to write my own letter to the County!

    • MomNeighbor

      Community service is required at all the public schools as well. I’ve very recently had a kid at both O’Connell and at Yorktown, and I thought the community service was better spelled out at Yorktown. Some of his friends at O’Connell met their requirements for community service by just sending a few emails to congressmen asking them to vote against health care or abortion. But at Yorktown, they actually had to do something. There are some wonderful people at O’Connell, and some wonderful students, but let’s not elevate them to sainthood unnecessarily.

      • bea hill

        Really? Now you’re picking on the kids? No one ever mentioned “sainthood”.

        • peace

          Nobody is picking on the kids. There are some nice kids there, and they did institute a new community service requirement just a few years ago. Whether or not they do that service here in Arlington, and most do not, this idea that we somehow “owe” them a waiver of zoning in return is ridiculous. O’Connell has a nice plan in place for fixing up their fields, lights or no lights. Their survival as an institution does not depend on their getting lights. They have always been known for a very successful sports program, without lights, and they will do even better with a nice new field, without lights. I would love to see them set an example of environmental awareness and community sensitivity by giving up on the lights. It is just alienating them from their community and causing upset for the O’Connell community members who do not think they are necessary.

          • YHS Neighbor

            Why don’t Washington-Lee, Yorktown, and Wakefield follow suit? If lights are so unnecessary, than why have them at ANY school in Arlington?? A bit hypocritical…

          • Loving Mom

            Clearly she was picking on the kids; there’s even a hint of politicizing.
            “…by just sending a few emails to congressmen asking them to vote against health care or abortion. But at Yorktown, they actually had to do something.”
            Try staying on point.

    • CrankyMom

      And don’t you think that an organization which puts a school smack in the middle of a residential district would expect opposition to their installing field lights for play by college teams? O’Connell was designed without the kind of buffer zone around the field you would normally find if night play had been planned all along. I don’t think anyone would object to a few high school home games a year, but they have refused requests by the neighbors to limit play to high school sports and events. As others have said, the bigger opposition is not to the lights per se, but the dramatic change in usage profile that goes with it.

      • Clover Leaf

        Where is there a school that is NOT in the middle of a residential area? Isn’t where people live where a school is supposed to be? Sure at this point in time there are not that many kids that go to O’Connell, but in the recent past there sure were. And with the current baby boom in the county, with county H.S. ill prepared for the population increase, there is a great chance that the neighborhood will again be sending a lot of kids there in the next 7-12 years.

        There are only eight houses that are not buffered from the field. If those eight families, that all moved in long after the school was built, has a problem, I am sure something can be worked out.

        Ultimately, it does not matter. Gonzaga will be them on the field, day or night.

  • DJO Neighbor

    Common sense? Ok. The high school has been there without lights for more than 50 years. 6 of the 8 high schools in their athletic conference don’t have lit fields (and DJO has a top athletic program without the lights so they certainly aren’t suffering as a program). I suppose we should have expected them to team with a university to turn their fields into an NCAA facility during the hours they aren’t using it? That is a big part of the objection to their proposal, its changing the use profile significantly. It’s not just high school sports this is bringing into their very small parcel of land, which has no natural barriers to separate the noise and light from the surrounding homes. We don’t have the infrastructure surrounding the school to safely and effectively handle the added traffic or parking either. Perhaps that’s why O’Connell and our neighborhood are zoned differently than Yorktown and W&L.

    Should private schools have full parity with public schools? If so, it shouldn’t be selective. O’Connell claims they don’t have to conduct the in-depth impact studies that Yorktown and W&L did because they are a “private institution.” Parents choose to send their kids to private schools, with the advantages and limitations that brings. As for impacts on the Yorktown neighbors, I would love to see a real study of any families who lived there before the lights and how the change impacted their lives (or not). If there is no impact on children’s sleep by the lights and noise, I’d love to be proven wrong. But by some real data or expertise to counter the countless studies, and common sense, that lead me to believe this will cause problems. Unfortunately, there are lots of kids in the world that have to live in less than ideal circumstances. That doesn’t mean our kids’ circumstances should be made worse to match. I can’t believe there is any parent that wouldn’t fight a proposal that could adversely impact their kids – that’s one reason why there are over 375 signatures to date from neighbors opposing the lights.

    As for the social benefit of DJO, I am sure there are many nice kids that go there, and a few not so nice ones, just like any high school. A few students do some tutoring at Tuckahoe to meet their community service requirements (I see the basket of name tags regularly in the Tuckahoe office, its not a huge contingent). The Yorktown high school kids help out there too. I conduct alumni interviews for a university and I can tell you almost every kid I talk to from any high school does some kind of volunteer/community service work. Some O’Connell students are also big on littering the lawns around the school, driving unsafely through our neighborhood, and other stupid teenage stuff. Nothing different than I would expect from any other high school, but I wouldn’t paint them with some angelic glow.

    This is the reason why we have zoning ordinances and why the lights require that the County Board consider a special use permit request. To balance the rights and interests of “neighbors” as they change the use of their property, and this is indeed a major change. I am hopeful that the County Board will consider carefully not just the lawyer/lobbyist team employed by the school to advocate on their behalf, but also weigh the health, safety, and interests of the residents in the neighborhood as they make their decisions about the request.

    • Arlingtonthen

      You should be worrying about how the Arl County Board wants to develop in the EFC metro area instead of improved playing fields and new lighting at Bishop O’Connell. The fact that you live so close to a private high school should increase your property values instead of decreasing the values…

      • Crabhands

        Um, you should re-read what this individual wrote. The post focusing on the individual’s child & not their home value.

        • Arlingtonthen

          Crabhands – Black out curtains will work so their children will sleep soundly and get their 10 hours of rest. The children will grow up and want to play football, soccer or lacrosse on well maintained fields with lights at a public or private high school. They will want to drive cars as soon as they are able to obtain a learner’s permit and they will probably throw trash even though the parents have taught them to recycle. And the houses in that neighborhood are not going to decrease in value but increase since they are close to a metro and good schools (including Bishop O’Connell).

      • Man in the Mirror

        I laugh every single time I read someone invoking ‘higher’ or ‘increasing’ or ‘protecting my’ “property values” as a virtue. Because these are usually the very same people who complain about the tax assessor valuing their property higher. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

        • Arlingtonthen

          They don’t complain about higher assessments when applying to refinance their homes though……

    • Crabhands

      +1 for the measured and well articulated response.

    • bea hill

      Ouch -(I see the basket of name tags regularly in the Tuckahoe office, its not a huge contingent). Now you’re the volunteer police.

  • Yorktown HS Neighbor POV

    @DJO Neighbor – Just because the school hasn’t had lights for 50 years, how does that preclude them from wanting to improve their fields with lights? I’d wager to bet over 90% of high schools in Northern Virginia have lit field. And, how does the fact that 6 out of 8 schools in the WCAC not have lights affect DJO wanting lights for their field? That is irrelevant to the issues. If everyone said “other schools don’t have that” there would be no such thing as institutional improvements or even innovations.

    And I think the school deserves to have a team of experts ready to be an advocate….afterall, Yorktown and W-L had the whole County on their side to advocate, you can’t get any better than that!

    As for their partnership with MU, Marymount is a relatively small school with a Division III athletic program, if you’ve ever gone to many of their games (currently at other Arlington neighborhood parks and fields) there aren’t huge turnouts….probably why you don’t hear many complaints against Marymount. Marymount also often plays at Yorktown or W-L or even Wakefield, so if our neighborhoods can survive them (with no issues), I’m sure you can too.

    I am one of the neighbors who lives right by Yorktown and I can tell you first-hand, Yorktown is awful at controlling their students before and after school and at school events. Yorktown is larger than O’Connell and awful at responding to neighborhood concerns, so I bet we have it worse than you do with O’Connell. If you think there was a lot of neighborhood input about any of the HUGE changes that have taken place at Yorktown, you would be mistaken. Who would have thought when we bought our house that the whole building was going to replaced and expanded, with new athletic fields? My wife and I certainly didn’t, but we also knew that there was going to be SOME change. At least you have the school working toward a compromise with the neighborhood. And regarding the lights, the new ones installed at Yorktown were much better than the old ones, they don’t emit as much light pollution into the neighborhood and is pin-pointed better for lighting accuracy. From what I’ve heard, O’Connell wants to use the same lights as Yorktown and W-L.

    The litter and speeding like you say is identical at every high school, it is unfortunately the price you pay for living next to a school. But I will tell you, as another poster mentioned, Yorktown DOES leave its lights on past 10:00 and it hasn’t affected my kids at all. By and large, the neighborhood has adapted extremely well to the changes at Yorktown and we continue to work with the school (as much as they will listen) to neighborhood issues, but the issues are more with student behavior rather than lights and sports. Like I said, at least O’Connell is reaching out for dialogue.

  • Another DJO Neighbor

    DJO Neighbor:

    Why shouldn’t private schools be able to achieve parity with public schools? Is the fact that DJO is a private/parochial school a good reason to deny their lights? Absolutely not.

    First you talk about the unique demographic of our neighborhood, but then point out there are many others like it. The fact is our neighborhood is not unique in Arlington, there are dozens others like it throughout Arlington, and throughout Northern Virginia (heck, even throughout the country!). Schools are oftentimes in neighborhoods, there are pros and cons to having this. I’d rather have a school in a neighborhood and have it be a center of community building rather than have a school sit on a busy highway. Having lived by O’Connell for almost two dozen years, the school has rarely turned down a request for using their facilities or fields (my kids boy scouts/girl scouts always met in their cafeteria, my kids played Arlington County little league and T-Ball on O’Connell’s fields, at one point when Tuckahoe’s gym had a water problem O’Connell graciously allowed us to move our practices there, all free of charge). So, besides the occasional littering and speeding (which, as you pointed out is typical to any high school and therefore should naturally expect when moving next to a school), I can definitely say DJO has been a good neighbor. But we as the neighborhood have never done much for them, except to say they are a pain to have! I’m also not trying to say they are “angelic”, but they do provide a lot of social benefit (just as Yorktown does) which shouldn’t be overridden by the fact that they aren’t taxpayers, and therefore deserve less standing in the community as you seem to have suggested.

    Also, out of my own curiousity because I could have missed this, but when and whom said that because they are private they don’t have to conduct the studies that Yorktown and W-L did? If you refer to http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/CPHD/forums/page79282.aspx you will see their studies and analysis, as requested by the County. In addition, you can also see these posted on their own website: http://www.bishopoconnell.org/page.cfm?p=534 (right side of the page, under “Light Analysis” and you can also see their landscaping improvement plans to further address neighborhood concerns. You will also notice they did comparisons/analysis of their plans with the Yorktown, W-L, Wakefield, and other Arlington County parks who have lights.

  • DT

    I think O’Connell should stop having classes during the day. The buses and student’s cars make a horribly noisy environment for the kids trying to learn at Tuckahoe or sleep in their beds for miles and miles near the school. They should make all of their students walk to school and wear fluffy slippers when they do so their steps cannot be heard inside the walls of the overpriced homes nearby if they are going to insist on continuing to allow students at the school.

    • Crabhands

      Just not funny at all. Try harder next time or give up comedy.

      • bea hill

        Keep it real and lighten up. It was funny.

    • Bridget

      I thought it was pretty funny and amusing 😉 P.S. Where does a name like Crabhands come from? That says a lot right there…

  • 40-year Arlington Tax Payer

    As someone who has been involved in Arlington sports for over 40 years as a player, coach and supporter, I have been happy to see and PAY (through taxes) for the improvements made to Wakefield, W&L and Yorktown fields (as well as many others). Unfortunately, many aging athletes like myself have sustained a number of injuries over the years due to poorly maintained fields in Arlington before they were upgraded. In their present state, the O’Connell fields are probably not safe to play on. It is past time that O’Connell bring their facilities somewhat up to par with the other Arlington high schools. This will be a benefit to Arlington as a whole, and WITHOUT using tax dollars. It will help relieve scheduling pressures at other county facilities and encourage more active participation in sports. From what I can tell, the lighting logically makes the project more financially viable (yes, it does have to be paid for) and the school has done a good job addressing community concerns by agreeing to restrict late night usage, have adequate police presence, use specialized downward-focused lighting and allowing for community use.
    The nearby resident that was qoted in TBD saying that it would be “like day light 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year” was simply not dealing with the facts. I can understand his concerns, but misleading and exagerating statements do not help his case. Anyone who buys property near a commercial area, metro stop, hospital or school should resonably expect that things will change over time, and as a community we have to make the best use of our limited space for the benefit of the community as a whole.
    I am in strong support of the field renovation project and lighting and will communicate my support to the Arlington County Board. I hope others do the same.

  • Bridget

    +1 here. Unfortunately many neighbors have made gross exaggerations, and are definitely over-dramatizing the situation. There’s a blog someone put up (supposedly by a journalist) that is full of inaccuracies and faulty “studies”. As someone who owns two houses (one in WCA and another by Yorktown, which we rent out to a family with children, who sleep just fine), we get double-whammied with living by schools. But, that was a choice we made and we are more than happy to see ALL Arlington schools (public and private) want to improve their facilities and athletic fields. It makes Arlington a destination for education and increases our overall desirability.
    I hardly think the lights will affect property values. Honestly, when people move next to a high school in NoVa, they most likely assume the field already has lights. How many people actually went to O’Connell’s fields and checked for lights? My bet is not many. But, if the neighborhood is saying lights are not needed at O’Connell, where were they when they put the new lights up at Yorktown?? Ironic how it’s fine for these people’s kids to go to Y-Town which does have state of the art facilities, yet it’s not okay for O’Connell? Seems like a double standard to me. I am also communicating my support to the Board.

  • Susan

    As a lifelong Arlington County resident and graduate of O’Connell High School, I support Bishop O’Connell’s efforts to upgrade their facilities, including adding lights to those facilities. I currently live about a quarter-mile from the school.
    I am proud to live in Arlington and want to see all students enjoy the benefits of updated facilities. Yorktown, W-L, (and soon Wakefield) benefit from improvements made with taxpayers’ dollars. The O’Connell effort will not require tax dollars only the understanding of nearby residents. Because the athletic fields have not been significantly upgraded in decades, they are in need of a major overhaul. Approval of the school’s plans will allow the school to provide its students with the type of excellent lighted facilities already available at the other high schools in Arlington.
    For over 50 years O’Connell has helped young men and women discover their talents and prepare them to use their gifts to contribute at all levels of community—local, state, and national. In those five decades O’Connell has served the community and been a good neighbor to the residents who live nearby. After graduating, many of these students make their home in Arlington as I have done (DJO’81) and contribute to the community both with their time and dollars.
    Much thought has gone into the O’Connell field project especially in areas that might impact residents. Some neighbors argue that when they moved into their houses they didn’t expect O’Connell fields to change. However, nothing ever remains the same. Good neighbor O’Connell should be afforded the opportunity to improve its facilities in the same way as the county’s other high schools. When I moved to my neighborhood in 1992, a farmhouse was located next to our property. When the owners retired they sold the house. A builder tore the house down and built a McMansion in its place. When I moved in I never imagined staring at the side of a very tall, very wide house. There were no hearings. The house was just built.
    O’Connell is trying to include its neighbors in the process and that is a good thing. The DJO plan makes every effort to minimize disruption to the neighborhood, a neighborhood that is less dense than the neighborhood surrounding Yorktown. The use of O’Connell’s fields would be no different than the use of Yorktown’s fields. The precedent was set with Yorktown’s renovation so O’Connell should experience no impediment to their field project. The field improvements will enhance the area and the neighbors will likely benefit from the upgrades especially since the track and fields will be available for use. The County Board should support O’Connell’s project because in doing so Arlington will be supporting quality education for all.

  • Graduated O’Connell Football Player

    As a graduate from O’Connell as well as a previous football player at the school, I am still very displeased that the immediate neighbors of the high school still will not come to terms with the school about the lights. Have none of you ever played a high school sport? None of you played football, baseball, soccer, lacrosee, etc? Did you get to play under the lights? Playing on Saturday afternoons for three years was not how I’d ever imagine myself spending my high school football career. By refusing to approve of this, you guys have taken away one of the more timeless high school traditions: Friday Night Football. Do you know how I feel whenever I watch a movie or television show about high school football, and watch them talk about the “glory of playing under the lights”? How do think I will feel when my grandkids ask me if I ever played under the lights in high school? During the season, my Friday nights consisted of going to other school’s games and wishing that I was in full gear, out there with my team. You can ask any O’Connell football player about this, and they will say the same thing. Not just the football players, but the soccer players, the baseball players, the lacrosee players, everyone who played a sport out on those fields while they attended that high school.

    If you move across the street from a high school, you should expect night sporting events. Even if they don’t have lights yet, you should realize that it’s 2011, not 1957 anymore. Having a field that is in the same condition (if not slightly improved) since it was first grounded is not ideal for not just O’Connell but ANY high school.

    Another thing, the talk about paying tax money and all that. We all pay taxes that go towards public schools. O’Connell pays within itself to keep itself running and alive. WE are paying for the field, not you. You can’t complain that $6 million is getting pulled from your pockets. It’s not. It would be a different story if your money was being directed to us, but it’s not.

    I’m done here, for those who are for O’Connell and the renovations, thank you. For those who are not, I have nothing to say, but depriving the young athletes of a tradition that is at the heart and soul of every high school… that just makes me sick.

    • CrankyMom

      Now, now, don’t be so heartbroken. Sorry your dreams were ruined. Truth is, O’Connell did not seek to change the lights agreement before this year, so you can hardly blame the neighbors for your personal issues. High school fields without lights are more common than you might think, so it is hardly a “timeless high school tradition.” Most of the other schools in your league also play without lights, and many, many high schools throughout the nation play without lights. If it was that important to you, perhaps your parents should have chosen a different school.

  • YHS Neighbor

    CrankyMom: I hope you get an extra bright beam of light aimed right in your house. As someone who lives right by YHS and has had to deal with the MASSIVE renovations, field expansions, NEW lights and all of the construction traffic, obnoxious student behavior (including a bunch of drunk YHS seniors this past weekend), you ought to be thankful O’Connell is only seeking lights. Your neighborhood has been and continues to be the butt of countless conversations throughout the greater Arlington County, and just FYI – the county has been doing a lot of polling to the greater County and the proposal is quite popular. Get over yourself.

    P.S. If lights are so un-important to you, then please petition the county to remove them from YHS. Hypocrite.

    • CrankyMom

      I’m all for turning off the lights at YHS, which is incidentally my own neighborhood as well. They are on way too much. Light pollution and waste of energy. Daylight hours should be better utilized. I actually have expressed my opinion on this to the county board — have you? And yes, the construction should have been better planned so it wasn’t taking forever.

      But I don’t think that, just because we are upset that we have to deal with noise and construction and lights, we should make sure that the DJO neighbors are just as miserable. DJO has a much smaller land area and a different configuration, and their plans represent a huge change in how that field is going to be used. No one has polled me, and I can’t imagine why the plan would be “popular” — with a large private high school and a private college using those fields, anyone who thinks there is going to be some benefit to the county from their increased usage is seriously mistaken.

      • Loving Mom

        You are very aptly named. Maybe you could channel your anger…. Just sayin’

        • CrankyMom

          Nope. Not angry at all. “YHS Neighbor” seems to have a bit of an issue though. However, you must excuse us both, as our internal body clocks are all mixed up due to the lights over at Yorktown being on all the time and the beep beep beep of the construction trucks waking us up. Not good for the inner calm.

          • Loving Mom

            You to another “Now, now, don’t be so heartbroken….If it was that important to you, perhaps your parents should have chosen a different school.”
            If you don’t think that’s not mean and off point, you are truly delusional.

          • CrankyMom

            Sorry, the letter was so phony and overdramatic that it was way over the top. I’ve played sports and known football players from O’Connell and elsewhere who played on unlit fields, and have yet to meet anyone who spends any time at all thinking about whether or not they had lights on a their field. This idea that playing on a field without lights “deprived young athletes of a tradition that is heart and soul of every high school” is sappy and ridiculous. O’Connell hasn’t had lights because the bishop who built the school made a commitment not to have lights, not because of today’s neighbors. The naturally lighted fields are the tradition at DJO, and, indeed, if the lights were as important to a student as this poster claimed, I would think that the parents would reconsider their decision to send a child to that particular school.

          • Graduated O’Connell Football Player

            Phony and overdramatic? Excuse me, could your plea also be “phony and overdramatic” because everyone else is saying it, so your adding your two cents? And of course, if you talk to any player of course they’re not going to talk about lights, but if you ask them if they would have liked lights, i guarantee you they would say yes. You say you played sports, but I’m sorry, women’s basketball/volleyball/soccer/softball/whatever you played is much different than football. Also, “deprived young athletes of a tradition that is heart and soul of every high school” is not sappy, it’s true. When you think of high school football, you think of playing under the lights. Lastly, my parents didn’t send me to the school to play football. I went there to receive a great education, which I did. I played football because I loved the sport and I was and still am extremely passionate about it, which you wouldn’t understand because you were not involved with it.

          • Loving Mom

            I stand uncorrected

          • WCA Arl Resident

            Loving Mom & Graduated O’Connell Player – well written and on-point responses from you both. Not everyone in the neighborhood is against O’Connell, it’s unfortunate a few people started an unnecessary hype by spreading inaccurate information, including a miseleading petition, laughable “Studies” and incredibly one-sided blogs. Many of us want to see improvements at O’Connell. I view Arlington as one of the few DC areas with truly excellent schools, both public and private, and both types of schools deserve the chance to improve and modernize.

    • Dan

      “the county has been doing a lot of polling to the greater County ”

      Huh….how has the county been doing polling ??

      Do you have the results of these “polls” ??

      • Dan

        You wrote, “and just FYI – the county has been doing a lot of polling to the greater County and the proposal is quite popular.”

        And I asked to see these polls.

        I am still awaiting your response.

        • Arlington Vet

          As I understand it, once the neighborhood started gathering petition signatures outside the immediate neighborhood, the Board and other county staffers wanted more info on if and why the greater Arlington community was strongly opposed to O’Connell’s plans. Apparently (and this is second-hand from someone in the county) there’s been a lot of informal conversations in various neighborhoods (N and S Arlington) on what people think. From what I’ve heard, again second-hand, most people in the county (except of course Williamsburg) are in favor of allowing O’Connell to proceed with their renovations. So if that’s what YHS Neighbor meant by “polling”, than I definitely believe there’s been a lot of feedback solicited. If there were actual opinion “polls”, they’re probably about as accurate and laughable as all of the various studies completed by a handful of the neighborhood NIMBYs.

          I could understand some of the opposition to the lights, but to appeal the decision in order to prevent any renovation to the athletic fields is just mean-spirited and awfully hypocritical.

          • Dan

            In other words these “polls” do not exist.

            Kind of what I thought.

            Informal conversations are not polls.

          • Arlington Vet

            All depends on how you define “polling”. Polling can definitely mean questioning different people and getting a sense of the general sentiment of the various Arlington County voters and residents…It’s done all the time by different political machines and organizations (healthcare!) to see what people think.

          • Dan

            No in this context and the way it was used it implied that there was a solid statistical base with the sampling and error rates associated with a real poll.
            There obviously isn’t so that it was being used to mislead people into thinking that there was more substance to your statement.
            Unless you can produce the results of randomly selected sample of individuals with the associated error terms, you are talking about idle chatter and not polls.

          • YHS Neighbor

            Dan, please don’t assume the context or meaning of my statement. I intended exactly what Arlington Vet said (and if you read correctly, it was me who made the initial comment, not Arlington Vet). You truly assume a very narrow interpretation of polling, but I won’t get into a debate about semantics. What I meant was the county really is/was actively seeking opinions on the proposal thoughout all of arlington, not just the immediate neighborhood.

            Either way, when I purchased my house close to YHS, I knew what I was getting myself into and knew that the school would not remain the same forever. The same goes for O’Connell – it’s awfully naive to assume the school would never upgrade, renovate or modernize their fields and building. Chances are the kids in your neighborhood come to my neighborhood and disrupt our streets with their shenanigans and speeding, beer cans, litter, and play on the lighted, upgraded athletic fields. Sometimes it’s not fun, but it comes with the territory of living near a school, esp. a high school nonetheless. Not only that, but O’Connell seems much more responsive and willing to work with the neighborhood than Yorktown ever was.

          • Dan

            “You truly assume a very narrow interpretation of polling, but I won’t get into a debate about semantics. What I meant was the county really is/was actively seeking opinions on the proposal thoughout all of arlington, not just the immediate neighborhood. ”

            What I object to is people throwing around assertions like the county has polled other parts of the county and then using those “phantom polls” as support for their position.
            The polls don’t exist.
            I hope those semantics are clear…don’t make stuff up to try to support your position.

          • TomTom

            dan out of all the points people including YHS neighbor you are debating the use of the word polling? really? sounds like you’ve got a poll stuck somewhere else. You and the rest of your clan led by “journalist” Bill Adair make it so easy for the rest of us in the county to really rally behind this cause. I was previously against the lights but after reading this ridiculous banter I’m solidly in support of the field improvements. Go poll on that.

          • Person

            I really hope that the county isn’t spending tax dollars “polling” on this or any other neighborhood issues. Certainly no one has polled me, not on this or any of the other neighborhood issues — noise in Westover, patio seating in Courthouse, whatever. I would certainly hope that the county board members would evaluate the facts, the pros and cons, and, yes, the impact on the neighborhood and county (good and bad), not ask people from random neighborhoods if neighborhood x should suck it up or not.

  • bea hill

    Seriously, have you guys checked out the oppositions blog?
    They are saying property values will go down after this field renovation. Really? Based on what a real estate agent says. I sure hope the affected homeowners go to Arlington and get their assessments decreased based on that. I think the fact that the streets in Williamsburg are along commuter routes to 66 and 267 far outweigh what little 1000-student O’Connell ever contributes. Thanks to Nav tools even commuters from Maryland are going down Williamsburg-Underwood to get to 267!
    Just let the school have what the public schools in the area already have. Remember the county ended the long-term agreement for O’Connell to use W&L for night games. No one is mentioning that. Or how about the 24 hour “green” lights at Nottingham Elementary. Bright as heck-24 hours a day. Plus that school is used for exercise classes and at night constantly.
    I think the school is being discriminated against because of its affiliation with the Catholic church. How insanely unliberal Arlington!

    • curiousvoter

      Are you sure that the county ended the agreement? I had always heard that O’Connell decided to end the agreement because of safety concerns. I am genuinely curious so if you have more information on this I’d like to know.

  • Arlington Vet

    Curiousvoter: the County ended the agreement because they had to give first priority of the fields to the county schools and programs (understandably). In addition, the condition of the fields were deteriorating and the County wanted to prevent more wear and tear from the O’Connell games. Also many of the neighbors complained of having to deal with football games/traffic for two high schools.

    • Nance

      I had kids at O’Connell during the period they made the change and I am quite sure it was O’Connell’s decision. They had been somewhat unsatisfied for a while with the arrangement and they had lost a lawsuit at the state level in which they had tried to continue playing the local public schools. Their new league (WCAC) played Saturday afternoon football, so it made a lot of sense to just do some renovations to their own field to allow them to play there.

  • Live nearby

    I think any resident who has been there longer than the school has a right to complain. Otherwise, move.


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