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Neighbors Feel Left Out of Field Use Decision

July 10, 2002

With the public comment period for a proposal to light a soccer field at Lewinsville Park closed as of July 8, members of the McLean Citizens Association (MCA) and residents who live near the park are questioning why they didn’t know about it sooner.

Marymount University (MU) and McLean Youth Soccer (MYS) are discussing a proposal that they share the cost of installing a synthetic surface on Field #3 at Lewinsville Park in McLean, which is owned by the Fairfax County Park Authority.

It was formed in 1977 after citizens protested a proposal to develop it into townhouses, and it was purchased by Fairfax County when Rufus Phillips was Dranesville District supervisor, said longtime resident Eileen Larsen, who was involved in the effort to create the park.

Linda McMahon, a McLean resident who is vice president for student services at Marymount University in Arlington, talks with MYS began last September, but not until January did they focus on a particular field at Lewinsville Park.

In April, MYS chairman Ted Kinghorn wrote to Dranesville District Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn, describing the proposal.

Because an FCPA policy requires a public hearing before lights could be added to a second field at Lewinsville Park, notices were mailed to community association leaders notifying them of a June 27 hearing.

Adrienne Whyte, chairman of the MCA’s planning and zoning committee, said she got her notice in the mail on June 5 from the FCPA, she said. But it only described the proposal for lights, not for artificial turf, she said.

The combined use of turf and added lights could mean changes to the intensity of use, parking, traffic, noise, and security, say residents who live near the park. But the FCPA can decide to add artificial turf on its own, with no public hearing.

Frank Crandall, who chairs an MCA committee on parks and the environment, was out of town when notices of the FCPA hearing were mailed. He was notified of the hearing by Whyte when he returned, he said.

In addition to the June 27 hearing, the FCPA allowed written public comment through July 8.

“With all the expedition being shown to this proposal, there was no effort to coordinate the proposal with the residents of the community adjoining Lewinsville Park, or with their citizens association, the West Lewinsville Heights Citizens Association (WLHCA) before setting the issue of new lights for public hearing” on June 27, wrote Jack Hannon, WLHCA vice president in a letter to Mendelsohn.

“The process followed here, where the adjoining community only learned of the proposals through letters announcing the public hearing, does not appear to comply” with an FCPA policy requiring citizens participation in the development process, he said.

WLHCA first met with MYS on June 25, two days before the public hearing.

McMAHON SAID an agreement to allow Marymount’s soccer and lacrosse teams to use the field at Lewinsville Park for practices and games would be between MU and MYS, not the Fairfax County Park Authority (FCPA).

She said the cost of adding artificial turf would be divided between them, with MU paying about half.

The cost is not yet determined, McMahon said, because no vendor has been selected. The cost is expected to be about $500,000, with Marymount paying half, she said. One MYS official said the cost could reach $700,000.

“I would simply say half the cost of installation of the field,” said McMahon. “I can’t be any more specific, because we don’t have an agreement with a vendor.”

She said Marymount would use the field not more than 20 percent of the time it is available, including after-dark hours that would be created by adding lights.

The men’s and women’s soccer and lacrosse teams would hold practices and games there, she said.

MARYMOUNT HAS an enrollment of about 2,100 undergraduate students, 650 living on campus, and 1,600 graduate students.

Tuition this fall will be $15,600, plus about $7,000 for room and board.

The university, established in 1950 by the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, is a private, independent university.

MYS, a division of McLean Youth, Inc., is a private non-profit which offers organized soccer games to children ranging from five to 18.

Estimates of the number of children who play range from 3,500 to 3,800, say MYS officials.

In addition, MYS players participate in a league of “travel teams” who compete around the area.

From 60 to 70 percent of the travel roster is made up of children from McLean, said MYS fields coordinator Fred Mittleman.

Those teams play “home games” in tournaments on fields maintained by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority when they can’t book time on fields in McLean, he said.

But after Holladay Field, owned by the Board of Supervisors, becomes available for play this fall, some of the travel teams will be able to play there rather than at Bull Run, he said.

“We put tons of money into the park fields,” said Mittleman. "The [FCPA] standard Adopt-A-Field arrangement doesn’t give you much control.”

Judy Pederson, the FCPA’s public information officer; Rick Thoesen, Dranesville District’s representative to the Fairfax County Park Authority; and Dranesville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn could not be reached for comment.