City Residents Not Playing Ball

City Residents Not Playing Ball

Neighbors of a proposed athletic field complex site want City Council to find another place for the project.

More than 10 members of the Mosby Woods neighborhood showed up at the Tuesday, May 23 City Council meeting and work session to listen in on an issue that they say will destroy open space, ruin wildlife habitat and deteriorate home values.

The City Council purchased the Stafford property — 24 acres of land located between Stafford Drive and Plantation Parkway — in July 2004, as part of the city’s open space initiative. William H. Gordon Associates, Inc. prepared three concept plans for the property, which City Parks and Recreation director Michael Cadwallader presented to the council at the work session.

“I think we’ve reflected what the needs of the Fairfax Police Youth Club and the Fairfax Little League are in this project,” said Cadwallader.

The needs, Cadwallader said, are for larger fields in the city because once children turn 12, field size regulations change. However, Mosby Woods residents came to the work session to listen in on what council might do to their neighborhood.

“Why can’t they just leave it alone?” asked Paulette Kaplan after the work session discussion. “There has to be another way to provide these activities for the children without contaminating a quiet, bucolic neighborhood.”

“Home values near open space are 25 percent more expensive the closer you get to green space,” said Spencer Cake, another Mosby Woods resident. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.”

CADWALLADER RECOMMENDED one of three conceptual plans for the property, proposing the construction of a large baseball diamond and a large rectangular multi-use field. In this concept, parking would only be available partially on site, and the rest would be parallel parking along the west side of Stafford Drive.

Councilmember Gary Rasmussen, also a resident of the Mosby Woods neighborhood, said the inclusion of artificial turf, which is proposed in all three of the proposed concepts, allows for the possibility of night games. This would be incredibly intrusive to the residents of that neighborhood, he said. Parking is also going to be a major issue if this plan is constructed, said Rasmussen.

“The idea of having parking there I think is truly troublesome to a lot of people,” said Rasmussen. “When you have games turning over every hour, all day long, those 100 parking spaces are being turned over constantly. That’s a very intense use of the front yards of these people.”

Councilmember Scott Silverthorne expressed some opposition by suggesting the city staff and council look at the other side of Plantation Parkway, the western side. That property is more open and flat, and might be a better, less costly alternative to the rougher topography on the Stafford property, said Silverthorne. But the Stafford property’s topography, while expensive to develop, will also allow for better noise and light buffering, said Councilmember Patrice Winter. The Stafford property does have some forestry surrounding it, which some members agree will make for better sound and safety barriers.

“There’s always going to be a difference of opinion on the definition of open space and what we do with it,” said Councilmember Jeffrey Greenfield. “This site is at least buffered. I view this as the beginning not the end. We need to have dialogue in the community and pitch that and see where we go from there.”

“Stafford is a very expensive option because of the topography of the field,” said Lederer. “We need to pursue this discussion on Stafford. It’s certainly in the spirit of where we were when we purchased the property.”

Once the Stafford discussion ended, most of the 10 people in attendance cleared the room. They said they will be following the issue through, and hope council will chose to “do the right thing.”

“My concern is cost of land development,” said Warren Rose, during the regular council meeting. “Have we really looked at the use of expanding existing ballparks? The bottom line is this was dedicated as open space, but the memo here says it’s earmarked as a ballfield.”

“I was very opposed before I came, but I came with an open mind,” said Cake. “I was not convinced.”

THE SHORT City Council regular session meeting preceding the work session discussions included a presentation to the City of Fairfax Police Department of its Certificate of Accreditation. Lederer presented Chief Rick Rappoport with the certificate, pointing out that the city met about 99 percent of the requirements and standards set forth by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. Since 80 percent is the required amount, and most police departments come within a closer range to that number, Lederer said the city is especially proud of the great work the police department does for the community.

“It really stands for everything special about the City of Fairfax,” said Lederer.

“I think one of the reasons why you all get such excellent service in the city is in part because we have good leadership,” said Rappoport.

Other community members spoke to the council during the meeting’s portion of public presentations on items not on the night’s agenda. Two of the four people who spoke to the council were concerned with the Providence Park project, which proposes to add the former Jester property on the west side of Providence Park to the existing Providence Park.

“We don’t believe you need any more parking spaces, especially for this local park,” said Simon Hacker, a resident near the park.

“I think some people may have a strong feeling about it, and I know many people have not seen them [the Providence park proposals],” said Gail Wade.

Other agenda items included:

* The authorization of a $15,373,600 contract with Costello Construction for the building of the Fairfax City Regional Library.

* A construction contract award of $172,017, for curb, gutter, drainage and sidewalk improvements to Sigma Builders, which turned out to be about $52,000 over budget.

* Setting a June 13 public hearing for the $933,000 appropriation of nondiscretionary expenditures projected to exceed the budget. The appropriation would result in a $542,800 reduction in the city’s general fund, because $390,200 of the $933,000 deals with disaster relief provided during Hurricane Katrina, and would be federally reimbursed to the city at a later date.