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Votes

Controversy Precedes Approval of MYS Soccer Agreement

MYS hopes to enhance soccer program compete with other neighborhood needs

Marymount University Women’s Lacrosse, 2002-’03

Fairfax County Residents/Total: 4/20 = 20%

Player, Hometown

Catherine Holland, Arlington, VA

Ashley Natoli, Alexandria, VA

Kristin McGrory, Springfield, VA.

Stephanie Hardman Harrisburg, PA

Jamie Knotts, Darlington, PA

Bridgette Sudor, Reston, VA

Chelsea Watson, Pittsburgh, PA

Sara Leslie, Annapolis, MD

Kim Treffer, Annapolis, MD

Malee Oot, Arlington, VA

Casey Smith, Eddystone, PA

Amy Trimble, Lorton, VA

Monica Tarantino, Burke, VA

Jessica Beaver, Plainfield, NH

Beth Horrigan, Baltimore, MD

Katie Smolka, College Park, MD

Kerry Adler, Long Valley, NJ

Brooke Berrie,r Easton, MD

Ify Achebe, Steubenville, OH

Rachel Sybor, Catonsville, MD

Marymount University Men’s Soccer, 2002-’03

Fairfax County Residents/Total: 8/22 = 36%

Player, Hometown

Brian Craddock, Herndon, VA

Shaun Byrne, Hightstown, NJ

Paul Brinckhaus, Chantilly, VA

David Newman, Fairfax, VA

Amadou N'diaye, Arlington, VA

Christian Michel, Burke, VA

Sean Gallagher, Great Falls, VA

Ricardo Navas, Washington, DC

Gary Climo, Liverpool, England

Jim Richards, Alexandria, VA

Kyle Hahn, Avon, CT

Thomas Wasley, Burke, VA

Keith O'Connor, Canandaigua, NY

Justin Kessler, Chantilly, VA

Andrew Schroeder, Columbia, MD

Daniel Minthorne, Woodbridge, VA

Adrian Sossa, Fairfax, VA

Ronald Duzenski, Laurel Springs, NJ

Ameen Katib, Arlington, VA

Chuck Soffel, Bridgewater, NJ

Geoff Mulholland, Oakton, VA

John Maceda, Washington, DC

Source: Marymount University Web Site

McLean Youth Soccer this year launched an aggressive effort to enhance the quality of its travel soccer program, launching McLean Premier Soccer (MPS) as “a professionally coached, enriched soccer program for our current and aspiring Division I travel teams.”

“In announcing the roll-out of MPS, Ted Kinghorn, Chairman of McLean Soccer, emphasized that the goal of MPS is ‘Quite simply, to create the very best youth soccer training and playing experience anywhere in the Washington metropolitan area,’” wrote travel director Bob Belair in the MYS newsletter.

And MYS has also sought better fields where travel teams can play.

In October, MYS opened play at a large field at Spring Hill and Lewinsville Roads that is owned by the Board of Supervisors and leased to MYS. As the premiere field for MYS elite travel teams, others are warned by signs, some written in Spanish, that they will be prosecuted for using the field without MYS’s permission.

MYS is also seeking a lease on a county-owned field next to the McLean Government Center on Balls Hill Road, known colloquially as “the police field.”

On Dec. 11, MYS obtained a five-year agreement on Field 2 at Lewinsville Park. And MYS also asked the FCPA to create two new fields on a piece of wooded property north of the Spring Hill Recreation Center.

MYS’s efforts were supported by an aggressive public relations effort; MYS sent its players into the community for a clean-up day, and sent press releases to local newspapers.

MYS’s premiere soccer program will have “a distinctive brand. All MPS teams will wear MPS authorized uniforms and will display a distinctive MPS badge,” wrote Belair.

“While it will be five years before the MPS program is fully operational, be on the lookout ... for the MPS badge -- a sure sign of great soccer and great soccer players.”

THREE CITIZENS’ ASSOCIATIONS: the McLean Citizens Association, West Lewinsville Heights Citizens Association, and Lewinsville Coalition, opposed giving MYS’s authority to assign the use of Lewinsville Park’s Field 2 to Marymount University.

But MYS argued that for $700,000 in financial support to pay for artificial turf at the field, it needed to retain management authority. “We are providing all of the financial burden. We are taking 90 percent of the risk. We are taking all of the exposure,” Kinghorn told the FCPA board.

Under the memo of agreement, MYS was also granted the right to market and sell products at the park, without sharing the proceeds with the FCPA.

WLHCA hired Fairfax lawyer, William Marr, to raise questions about the proposal, which assigns use of Lewinsville Park fields to Marymount University in Arlington County for lacrosse and soccer home games.

“If Marymount University applied to construct an athletic field for its home games elsewhere in Fairfax County, it no doubt would be required to obtain the necessary zoning approvals to operate a college athletic field,” Marr wrote to the FCPA board on Dec. 9.

Overall, about 23 percent of Marymount’s enrollment is made up of Fairfax County residents.

The current women’s lacrosse team has 20 percent Fairfax County residents, while the men’s soccer team has 36 percent.

On Dec. 9, two days before the FCPA board approved the agreement with MYS, the Board of Supervisors approved a new process for assigning fields which gave sports priority use during its principal playing season: spring for lacrosse and fall for soccer.

The supervisors also raised the residency requirement for other groups that play on Fairfax County fields to 75 percent. Previously, it was 67 percent.

“It is ironic that two days after they tightened the policy, the Park Authority board chose to ignore it,” said Hannon.

“I would think if MYS gets access to the field, it would have to pass down the same [residency] standard to anyone it allows to use it,” Hannon said. “The reason for the policy is very clear; there is limited field space and they want to maximize its use by county residents whose parents are taxpayers.”

“IT SEEMS TO ME the local community supports, and has demonstrated, the need for new fields,” said Kinghorn.

“In each instance some of the homeowner associations, that are really limited a vocal few in leadership positions, have stated they don’t want any improvements, new arrangements or new fields.”

But the arrangement for MYS to assign the field at Lewinsville Park, he said, “has been approved by elected officials, appointed officials, and local media,” he said.

“The Washington Post, a national newpaper, has spoken on this topic three times in the last three weeks.

“The fourth estate, the elected estate, the appointed estate, and the staff have all approved this.”

But the citizen groups have asked for a full master plan review at Spring Hill Rec Center, rather than a determination only to find if the site will accommodate two fields.

Between April 4, when Kinghorn first asked Dranesville District Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn to consider the MYS proposal for shared use of the field with artificial turf between MYS and Marymount, and Dec. 11, when the FCPA board approved it, citizens groups and MYS leaders met only one time, in August, to air their differing views about the field.

Kinghorn said the homeowners cancelled a second meeting that had been set up, and made no attempt to attend MYS and MYI meetings.

“[Dranesville Park Authority Representative Rick] Thoesen brought us together once in August, but there was no follow-on, with many disputed issues still before us,” Hannon said.

When he attended the MCA meeting to describe the MYS proposal, Kinghorn said its members were welcome to attend MYS meetings.

Later, he said most of the contested issues were resolved, and MYS bowed to the residents’ wishes when it switched the proposed field at Lewinsville Park from Field 3, closer to residences but unlighted, to Field 2, near the center of the park and equipped with outdated lights.

AT A JUNE 27 PUBLIC HEARING to air MYS’s proposal for lights at a second soccer field at Lewinsville Park, Spring Meadows Homeowners Association President Richard Porter asked the FCPA board to “approach the proposal cautiously and without haste.

“Both the new soccer field being constructed by MYS at the Holladay site and the Lewinsville Park proposal seem more designed to meet the needs of MYS’s elite traveling teams than they do to meeting the needs of McLean’s ‘house league’ players,” he wrote.

“It is not unreasonable to question whether the proposed all-weather, full-sized soccer field that Marymount and MYS are proposing will be used by all McLean youth teams or predominantly by the traveling teams ... ,” he said.

“The same question can be asked of the new full-size soccer field being developed by MYS at the intersection of Spring Hill and Lewinsville Roads [the Holladay field]. Initially, the proposal was to construct two fields,” he said.

“There are significant public policy issues here that require careful consideration. The park authority ought not to be giving away property for [a] single use without considering a full range of alternative uses.”

Porter said he questions how the premier fields at Holladay and Lewinsville will be assigned. “The question I would ask is, for example, the Holladay field: how has that been scheduled?

Has that been scheduled in a ratio allows the house league teams to use it equally with the travel teams? The same with the artificial turf field.”

Porter, whose grown children played travel soccer, said he appreciates the game and its lure, and has no quarrel with parents trying to create more places for children to play.

“I think the problem is process,” he said. “What I favor is people leveling with the facts, and governmental agencies taking a full hard look at everyone’s concerns and making a decision in the public interest.”

“MYS tends to want to ram these proposals home, and the county agencies don’t seem to want to look at community concerns to arrive at a decision in the public interest.”

KINGHORN SAID OPPOSITION to the agreement with Marymount is emerging now because of a few vocal people who have been against it all along.

“Back in April, and subsequent to that, the public hearing on the lights, it was known to everyone, that part and parcel of the lights issue was to have the artificial surface and the partnership with Marymount.

“Now are into, if you don’t like the results of the decision, you oppose the process,” said Kinghorn.

SOME OF THE SAME CITIZENS who originally pressed local officials to establish Lewinsville Park and the Holladay Field are watching what Hannon called “the aggressive way [MYS has] approached this whole thing.”

The soccer field on Lewinsville Road that is now MYS’s premiere field is owned by the Board of Supervisors and leased to MYS for five years.

It was also obtained by citizens through negotiations with a Washington developer.

The Holladay Corp. in Washington, D.C. “proffered” two soccer fields, but MYS developed them as one top-quality field, installing sod and an underground irrigation system, making it one of the premiere fields in the county.

JANE EDMONDSON, PRESIDENT of the Lewinsville Coalition, negotiated with Jon Cox of Holladay to arrive at the field proffers at Lewinsville Road.

Now, her organization is asking MYS to remove the orange snow fencing from around the field, and challenging an MYS sign that she says is prohibited in the agreement between MYS and the Lewinsville Coalition.

“The memo of understanding [MOU] they signed said they could make no improvements or enhancements without coming to us 60 days before they modify or change the property,” she said.

“In the case of the big sign, they didn’t ask anybody. And we were not told about the temporary snow fencing or the ‘no trespassing’ signs.

“We have a big problem with those. If unauthorized play is your concern and you think signs are needed, maybe we could find some language that would be less objectionable and doesn’t give the impression that anyone who puts a toe on it will be prosecuted,” she said.

Hannon, an attorney who is an officer in the WLHCA, was one of the citizens who worked to stave off residential development at Lewinsville Park in the early 1970s.

A developer planned to build townhouses on the 40-acre site; zoned to permit three townhouses per acre.

Local citizens, lead by John Shacochis, pressured county officials to preserve it as a park, saying it was one of the last large parcels in close-in McLean.

County officials concurred, and the land was purchased as a park with money from a bond referendum. Shacochis was later elected Dranesville District Supervisor.

Kinghorn says the field shortage has emerged because public officials charged with providing them over the last 20 years have not done so.

“The problem is something we inherited. The organizations that have been charged with providing green space have not provided enough fields,” he said. “I think MCA should take some responsibility. Who has been the advocate for fields?”

PRESENTLY, HANNON, MYS, and the FCPA board are waiting for a ruling from Fairfax County zoning officials to see if a public hearing before the Planning Commission should be required before allowing Marymount and MYS to install artificial turf in time for Marymount to play its lacrosse home games this spring at Lewinsville Park.

Such a hearing, known as a 2232 hearing, is required when land passes from private to public use; county zoning officials will say whether the hearing is required when land moves in the other direction, from public to private.

Both MYI and Marymount University are private, non-profit organizations.

Changing from parkland to college use “is an order of magnitude difference from being a district park,” said Hannon.

“We are certainly making our views known,” he said. “We don’t believe this can go forward without a zoning process because it is becoming a college athletic field.

“As Yogi Berra said, ‘It ain’t over til it’s over.”

When he attended the Dec. 11 FCPA board meeting, Hannon sat next to Kinghorn when the board went into executive session to get advice from a county attorney about whether an opinion from zoning officials would be needed. “We finally all got brought to the same table at the same time,” he said.