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Westminster’s dreams of Friday night lights doused in Town & Country

westminster footballThe Town & Country Board of Aldermen has voted down Westminster Christian Academy’s request for football stadium lights and a permanent public address system.

On Sept. 14, the board voted 7-0 against the ordinance in question, which would have approved a conditional use permit for four 80-foot tall light poles and the P.A. system. Alderman Lynn Wright (Ward 1) was absent.

As in previous meetings, many of the residents and supporters of Westminster’s request were dressed in blue and sat on one side of the board’s chambers. Those opposed to the stadium lights sat opposite, clad in red. Many of those in attendance spoke on the issue.

“Some of those against the Westminster lights have probably been beneficiaries of other projects in Town & Country that have impacted other people, but have improved Town & Country,” resident Joe Stieven said. “If we don’t help our community to evolve, to evolve thoughtfully, we’re doomed for failure.”

Resident Jim Butler suggested that a consensus between the school and residents could be reached on the issue.

“It’s not the end of the world, it’s not the atomic bomb, it’s a bunch of kids on Friday night having a night game,” Butler said.

But resident Jeff Chaney said it wouldn’t matter if the lights were only turned on one night per year, instead of the allowed 25.

“Nobody in this room would want four 80-foot tall poles with 70-100 square feet of lights atop them, within 600 feet of their home,” Chaney said. “These poles will be there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

Resident Allen Allred cited a petition with over 100 signatures from residents opposing the lights.

“And there will be 400-plus that will say, if necessary, we have to do whatever is necessary to stop this if a permit were granted,” Allred said.

Alderman Fred Meyland-Smith (Ward 3) said the request, taken by itself and with no other issues considered, is a “very reasonable” request.

“However – and the however in my mind is a big, huge, however – every resident in this city has the right to peace and quiet at their home and in their yard,” Meyland-Smith said. “And the Westminster request does not trump the right of citizens to peace and quiet in their home and in their yard.”

Alderman Skip Mange (Ward 1) said he would vote “nay” on the ordinance because it would violate the requirements built into granting a CUP.

“The city of Town & Country ordinance requirements for approving a conditional use permit are pretty strict,” Mange said. “The code provides that the aldermen shall not approve such a permit if it causes any one of eight things.”

Mange said if the CUP for the lights and sound system were to be granted, he felt that conflicts would arise from three of those eight conditions, specifically that the project will not adversely affect the general welfare of the community, be developed and operated in a manner that is physically incompatible with the permitted uses of the surrounding areas or create a nuisance.

Following the vote against the ordinance, Dr. Tom Stoner, Westminster’s head of school, said the school is currently reflecting on the board’s decision and examining what options are available to it.

“We’re disappointed by the decision, but very grateful for the process that’s available to us to put our proposal forward and engage in vigorous debate about it,” Stoner said.

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