The Ursuline community scored a big goal on Wednesday. After hearing emotional input from neighbors, City Council members finally and unanimously approved the school’s request for a lighted athletic field.
“I understand how sensitive this is, and I’ve listened to both sides,” departing District 13 City Councilwoman Ann Margolin said during the meeting, which was packed to the point of overflow. But she said Ursuline’s many compromises — including lessened glare and a 20-night limit on the number of times the lights will actually be used at games each year — clearly “minimize the impact of the athletic field on the neighborhood.”
Proponents in the crowd wore T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Support the Ursuline Athletic Field,” or stickers to the same effect. A Facebook page dedicated to the field proposal had upwards of 700 fans as of Wednesday, and supporters also spread word about the hearing through Twitter, Instagram, and Ursuline’s website.
The all-girls school has never had a real field, despite having a soccer team that won its 23rd consecutive state championship this spring. Players often motor through rush-hour traffic en route to Jesuit, the University of Dallas, and elsewhere for home games and early-morning practices.
Wednesday’s win didn’t come without a fight, however.
More than half of nearby homeowners notified by the city have opposed a specific-use permit for the field, which they say will be a blight to the area in terms of noise, lights, and even driver safety.
“If Ursuline Academy had consulted me to design a sports field at this location, I wouldn’t have done it,” said Carrollton engineer Dale Caffey, speaking on behalf of certain neighbors. By his calculations, which school spokespeople quickly refuted, the glare from the field lights will violate city code.
The council denied an earlier version of Ursuline’s application in 2001. The revised one — approved 14-1 by the City Plan Commission in February — has many caveats, including guarantees that the light poles will be relatively short (45 feet) and that games will end by 9 p.m. Several events will be audited to ensure lighting is as targeted and subtle as engineers have promised.
The roughly 2-acre field on the southwest corner of Walnut Hill and Inwood Road also must go without loudspeakers, a concession stand, or new parking slabs.
“Ask yourselves if we would even be having this conversation if it were a boys’ football field,” Strait Lane resident Karen Pollock said, questioning the “number of concessions” the school has made to appease others in the last year. “We believe the school has worked tirelessly to listen to us — their neighbors — and to create a solution that’s amenable to all parties.”