July 25, 2002
Despite several issues roiling through the community that surrounds Lewinsville Park, the Fairfax County Park Authority is set to vote July 31 on the issue of whether to light two additional fields there, one for soccer and one for baseball.
“My preference is to vote on the 31st, but there are no guarantees,” said Dranesville Park Authority Representative Rick Thoesen, who is also mayor of Herndon. “My mind is always open.”
Before the vote Thoesen said he will meet with the athletic community and citizen groups to resolve differences over how the fields should be used.
“I will meet with the stakeholders from the athletic community to address with them all of those issues which I have learned about, based on listening to the tapes from the public hearing and reading the emails
“I do have a grasp of the full range of the issues,” Thoesen said Tuesday. “After that, I intend to contact the local neighborhood representatives to let them know what the position is of the athletic community.”
Thoesen, who assumed duties as mayor of Herndon on July 1, was in England on a goodwill trip when the FCPA held a hearing on lighting the fields.
“I see my job in terms of Lewinsville Park in terms of trying to facilitate a solution for the proposer, McLean Youth Soccer (MYS),” he said.
“I will have to do my best, judiciously, to reach the best solution we can muster, keeping in mind the needs of the neighborhood for peace and harmony, and the athletic community for quality of life.
“In times of difficult field availabiblity, creativity is something all of us should embrace.”
Thoesen said he authorized the June 27 public hearing because “we needed to follow a fast track in order to be successful."
Thoesen said he knew he would be in England at the time, but hoped “the community could come together and resolve their own issues.”
The FCPA sent out notices of the public hearing that focused on the issue of lighting, since the use of artificial turf does not require a public hearing, and some members of the community were upset to learn about a proposal that Marymount University would use the field during 20 percent of its available hours.
MYS had worked out an arrangement for Marymount to pay half the cost of the turf, with Marymount paying the other half. The estimated cost is upwards of $500,000.
FCPA, which has no funds available for capital expenditures, would pay for the lights. A bond referendum for $20 million for parkland acquisition and development is scheduled to go before voters in the general election on Nov. 5.
In an unexpected related development, Dranesville Supervisor Stuart Mendelsohn announced Monday he won’t seek re-election.
Thoesen, who is Mendelsohn’s appointee to the FCPA board, had announced he too would step down after he was elected mayor on May 7. But Thoesen said he would stay in office through November to help push through the park bond referendum.
Steve Sulzer, president of the West Lewinsville Heights Citizens Association, said his group was left out of the negotiations for the lighting and use of the field.
“We were not included in whatever preliminary discussions occurred between MYI-MYS, the FCPA, and Supervisor Mendelsohn’s office,” he said.
“We didn’t learn of the proposal to put lights and artifical turf until just before the hearing on June 27.”
As of Sunday, he said, he had not heard from Mendelsohn or Thoesen about new meetings. Nonetheless, he said, “Our association’s answer is not always ‘no, no, no.’ It’s typically been, ‘let’s look for solutions to help the county provide the public service and yet still protect homeowners rights who might be affected.”
Ted Kinghorn, chairman of MYS and a proponent of shared use of the field with Marymount, said his group has been open about its intentions to expand soccer and acquire more fields.
“I’ve been fairly visible,” he said, “and our meetings are open.””the notion that there was claqndestine activity to perpetrate a surprise was never our intent. We can’t be less than open,” he said.
“We didn’t seek to expedite the process, or to delay it,” Kinghorn said.
“We have worked with many different citizen groups, and will continue to. We would prefer to do it prior to the hearing.”
He said between 3500 and 4,000 children want to play soccer in McLean.
“They need fields to participate in athletics, which we think addes value to their development as citizens,” Kinghorn said. And we feel we have an oblitgation to provide them.
“It’s not just a selfish wish.”