The Mobile Planning Commission voted Thursday to allow St. Luke’s Episcopal School to add lights and bleachers to an on-campus football field, with some conditions.
The planning approval and unanimous vote on the planned unit development restricts the school to hosting a maximum of 65 events on the combination football and soccer field. In addition, the school must turn off the lights 15 minutes after a game ends and the lights can’t be any brighter than what a photometric study suggested. The school must also plant infill vegetation along a buffer adjacent to residential property.
During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Regency Oaks residents, like Bob Peter, said not only would the lights be visibly disruptive during daylight hours, but light pollution would impact residents’ quality of life.
The photometric study done by Musco Sports Lighting of the proposed four poles with 10 lights each showed an intensity of zero foot candles on the south and west property lines,according to Terry Holt, facilities chairman of the school’s board. On the east side, Holt said, there would be one foot candle or less.
“The truth is all of the trees on the east side will block the light,” he said. “There’s a group of trees on the north side that drop the light to zero foot candles. It’s the same effect on the east.”
The zoning ordinance regulates the amount of light emitted from a parking lot, only allowing for .2 foot candles, but there is no regulation for the amount of foot candles at a football field, said attorney Jim Rossler, a member of the school’s board.
Peter and others also questioned why LED lights weren’t in the plans. Holt said LED lights would’ve been too expensive — at about $70,000 to $100,000 — for the school.
Peter and other residents also questioned the number of events planned for the field and shared concerns over noise from a public address system.
Commissioners assured residents that the PA system would have to adhere to the city code on noise, as for the frequency of events, the commission set a limit of 65 games at the field per year, which was based on the number given by the school.
St. Luke’s football coach Ron Lee the field would be needed for five regular season home football games and four regular season middle school football games. The field would also be used for as many as 18 soccer games between the girls and boys teams, he said. Right now, Lee said, the number of days the field will be used doesn’t come close to 65.
Peter specifically questioned why a glare study wasn’t done on the lights. Rossler said a glare study wasn’t required.
If the school gets complaints about the lighting once it’s installed, Rossler said, the school would take steps to address them.