After a proposal to install lights on Edgewood High School’s field failed to gain support from the Madison Plan Commission Monday, the school’s president said he is “evaluating all options.”
Michael Elliott, president of the west side private Catholic school at 2210 Monroe Street, said in an email Tuesday morning he is “very frustrated” by the Plan Commission’s rejection of a conditional use permit to install four light poles with LED light fixtures at its athletic complex.
Pointing out that UW-Madison and Madison Memorial and La Follete high schools hold night games, Elliott argued that the city is treating Edgewood differently. This line of thinking also prompted Edgewood to sue Madison last August over a related issue.
The high school later dropped the lawsuit in February following the City Council approving the school’s request to repeal its master plan, which paved the way for hosting daytime games at its field, which was upgraded with artificial turf in 2015. The school used to hold its home football and soccer games at other high school facilities in the area.
“This is a long way from fair and equal treatment,” Elliott said. “We are evaluating all options to enforce our rights and the rights of our students.”
Under city ordinances, Edgewood can appeal the Plan Commission’s decision to the City Council by filing an appeal within 10 days from May 12. Once filed, the appeal would be introduced at one City Council meeting and heard at the next.
A successful appeal requires a two-thirds majority vote of the City Council to reverse or modify the Plan Commission’s decision.
The Plan Commission’s specific action placed Edgewood’s application for the permit on file without prejudice, which means that the high school could file a new conditional use application and address concerns raised by the Plan Commission.
If the commission had denied the application outright, Edgewood would have had to wait at least 12 months to file a new application.
Though the Plan Commission's staff found the school meets standards to install lights, commission members argued that the lights will impair the “uses, values and enjoyment” of the properties surrounding the school.
“I think that the establishment of lights on the field will have a substantial impact on the adjoining residents,” Commissioner Bradley Cantrell said at the meeting.
Planning staff recommended granting the permit with several conditions, including the following:
- The final plans shall note that the photometric data represents compliance with city ordinances.
- The use of the lights for non-practice events — competitions, games and school activities — be limited to Edgewood High School, Edgewood Campus School and Edgewood College.
- Stadium lighting used for practices should be turned off at 7 p.m.
- The number of competitions, games and school activities using the stadium lighting after 7 p.m. be limited to a specific number per school year to be determined by the Plan Commission.
- The lights be turned off 30 minutes following the conclusion of a scheduled non-practice event and no later than 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
- No non-practice event using the lights shall be scheduled to start after 7:30 p.m.
- A landscaping plan shall be submitted for the athletic field.
Elliott said Edgewood was amenable to all the conditions.
Edgewood’s plans to add improvements to its field has fomented controversy in the neighborhood for years. Those opposed to the school’s proposal to add lights fear the addition of night games will lead to increased traffic and noise, especially for those whose homes are located on the neighboring streets to the west and north sides of the campus.
“The installation of lights at the Edgewood High School field would be a serious threat to our quality of life, and to the use and value of our property,” Gail Martinelli, a resident of West Lawn Avenue, said.
At Monday’s meeting, 938 speakers registered on the Edgewood item with about 52 people speaking. Most of the speakers were against the proposal, though many registered their support but did not speak at the meeting.
Supporters who submitted comments in writing to the Plan Commission say that Edgewood is an asset to the city and allowing night games would contribute positively to the community.
Some area residents have said that the proposal would contribute to "spirit and enthusiasm" in the city.
Update: This article has been updated to accurately reflect comments submitted to the Plan Commission.
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