By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
The Greene County Youth Center, Inc. (GCYC) presented the Greene County Planning Commission an amendment to a 1987 Special Use Permit (SUP#87-373) to allow for additional lighting on all 10+ acres that they own on July 17th. What is odd is that when staff researched the 1987 SUP it was found that it only applied to about 1/3 of the property.
Bart Svoboda, Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, explained the unusual situation to the Planning Commission. The 10+ acres lies south of the Ruckersville Volunteer Fire Department on Sassafras Lane . Only the small field at the back of the property was included in the 1987 SUP while the big field at the entrance is non-conforming. The site is built out for fields and the addition of more lights will allow play to continue to until 10 pm. This is especially critical in spring and fall when there is less daylight in the evening. The PC could recommend shields on the lighting to direct light only to where needed. The Comprehensive Plan supports this request with a 30 foot buffer to the surrounding residential areas . Lighting would not be permitted from 10 pm to 7 am. The SUP supports only athletic activities .
The applicant, Tom Eddins, President of the GCYC, provided the PC some backround. The GCYC was founded in 1961 providing baseball and softball for the youth of Greene County. Other than Cove Creek , the facility in southern Albemarle County that Best Selling Author John Grisham opened, the GCYC facility is the only privately owned facility in Virginia per Mr. Eddins. GCYC has 28 teams and 325 players ranging from age 4 to 16 years of age. The lights are needed to allow GCYC to provide a better product to the youth of the county.
The PC then had comments from several residents of adjoining property to the GCYC. Linca Lucy has lived at the back side of the GCYC for 23 years and is the closet private property to it on Sassafras Lane. She brought up issues of safety (youth leaving the ballfields and entering the trees that are private property), noise from cheering and the loudspeakers, litter, etc. John Lucy questioned why additional lighting is needed and asked why the 30 foot buffer zone was not being adhered to. He also expressed concern that children dart into the lane and he is fearful of an accident. He questioned why a fence could not be put up by the GCYC. Mr. Lucy also questioned if the loudspeakers exceeded the 60 decibel level allowed by code . His final suggestion was if the lights are approved then he would request that barriers like ones used on Route 66 to block noise be installed. One last speaker echoed the concerns of the other speakers.
The public hearing was then closed and Chairman Anthony Herring asked Bart Svoboda to clarify the uses to be allowed by the SUP. He said that the SUP would limit used to athletic activities such as baseball, softball, soccer, etc.
Commissioner Morris asked what time games would stop in order to turn off the lights in order to get people out of the park before the lights turn off at 10 pm. Mr. Svoboda indicated this would be the responsibility of the GCYC, but the lights need to be off at 10 pm. Commissioner Willard asked if there are plans to light all fields. Chairman Herring included the question of when the lighting would be completed. Mr. Eddins indicated that it would depend on fundraising but hoped that within 5 years all lights would be installed. Commissioner Willard asked if they would play doubleheaders during the week or just start games later. Mr. Eddins said that practices and games could start later than the current 6 pm and on weekend more time would be allowed between games. He said that the use of time near 10 pm would not be an everyday event.
Vice Chairman Jay Willard asked Bart Svoboda about keeping the lighting contained to the park and he indicated there are certain lights available to do just that. Commissioner Vic Schaff commented that he believes the GCYC is supported by the Comprehensive Plan in that it increases revenue in Greene County.
Chairman Anthony Herring stated he understands the comments both sides made tonight but he is unaware of more space in Greene County. He also clarified that was being decided was only the allowance of more lighting. The other issues brought by residents are not part of the SUP process. Regardless whether the SUP is approved or not, it will be passed on to the Board of Supervisors for their decision and all parties will have a chance to express their views at that meeting.
With no further discussion, the SUP was approved 4-0 (member Frank Morris was absent from the meeting). This is a difficult issue with valid issues from both sides. The GCYC is providing a tremendous service to the youth of Greene County and was started when the surrounding area was used for nothing but farming. Development close to Ruckersville has grown and they are now side by side. As development in the area continues, there may be an opportunity for the two sides to work cooperatively [and with the Board of Supervisors] to resolve this issues highlighted at the meeting.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.