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Votes

Strike Two

Two absent city councilmembers prevent ball field discussion from moving forward.

Thanks to the absences of two councilmembers, work session discussions over ball fields for the Stafford West property and sound walls along George Mason Boulevard were delayed for the second consecutive City Council meeting, Tuesday, Oct. 10.

The ball fields did receive some attention in both the regular meeting and the work session, though. A few city residents, a staff member and the president from the Fairfax Police Youth Club (FPYC) came to share their opinions on the fields with council, including one man who said he was sick of the Mosby Woods community trying to shun every proposal that would jeopardize the green space bordering that community.

“We’ve already approached another site to move the ball fields to appease one community,” said Gary Perryman, president of the Westmore Citizens Association. B1011-ired of Mosby Woods getting all the breaks here, people.”

Perryman was speaking of the newest concept for the ball fields proposed for the Stafford property, just north of Fairfax Boulevard and west of Stafford Drive, behind the Outback Steakhouse and KFC. The most favorable concept previously presented to council included three fields, a large baseball diamond with its outfield doubling as a large soccer field, and another large soccer field next to it.

Warren Bowes, a Mosby Woods resident, presented council with 150 petition signatures he collected in opposition to the ball fields. Bowes and many other Mosby Woods residents previously collected petition signatures for a proposed condominium development that would also border their community. They found success in preventing that development when council rejected the builder’s application at a Sept. 12 meeting.

Michael McCarty, the city’s parks and recreation director, showed councilmembers an even newer plan that might ease the parking and traffic issue for Stafford West. That plan keeps the two soccer fields at Stafford and moves the large baseball diamond to the Westmore School property, 11000 Berry St. The new plan would allow for more on-site parking at Stafford, thus eliminating the need to widen Stafford Drive in order to make room for street-side parking there. Perryman said the Westmore community welcomes the idea of the baseball diamond in its backyard.

“We’re very short on ball fields … there are not enough ball fields to get enough good practice time,” said Perryman. “Sometime or another everybody needs to think about the kids, and not green space per se.”

IN AN UNUSUAL presentation, a city staff advisor spoke out in frustration with the consistent delays that have occurred with the ball field proposal. Brian Knapp, the chairman of the parks and recreation advisory board, told the City Council it was the first time in four years he has felt the need to address them publicly at a meeting.

“How can we help you, officials on this council, move the ball on Stafford West, cause it just doesn’t seem like we’re getting anywhere,” said Knapp.

Council purchased the property in 2004 for $5.7 million, said Knapp, and since then nothing has been accomplished. He said when the property was purchased it was for the explicit intent to build ball fields there, which is why he said it is frustrating that in a meeting last month councilmembers were at the table still talking about whether ball fields were what they wanted to do with the property. They agreed that they were, but to Knapp, it took more than two years to reach a decision that was already made. Only three issues should be on the table right now, said Knapp, and they are lighting, parking and artificial turf.

“Just tackle those three items and then say, all right, now go design the park,” said Knapp.

IN THE WORK SESSION following the regular meeting, councilmembers listened to McCarty’s presentation addressing questions raised by councilmembers at the Sept. 26 work session. Even without Councilmembers Jeff Greenfield and Gail Lyon present, the other members tried to move forward with discussions about the three issues raised by Knapp at the regular meeting: parking, lighting and artificial turf.

After it became obvious that Councilmember Gary Rasmussen was opposed to lights at the Stafford ball fields, and Councilmembers Patrice Winter and Joan Cross support the installation of lights, the conversation moved to the next issue since a vote of four councilmembers, not including the mayor, would be needed to make any decisions on lighting.

New questions were raised when the parking issue did not appear to be solved under the new concept that would move the baseball diamond to the Westmore property. In the drawing showing only the two soccer fields at Stafford, the parking area still appeared at the northeast side of the property, with the ingress and egress coming from Stafford Drive. Mayor Robert Lederer asked why that parking lot couldn’t be moved to where the baseball diamond existed in the concept presented at the Sept. 26 meeting. Since the diamond would now be eliminated and built at Westmore, Lederer said it looked like there would be enough room there for the parking lot, thus moving the parking and traffic closer to Fairfax Boulevard and farther away from the Mosby Woods community.

McCarty and Brian Cipriano, the architect working on the project, agreed to look at the parking option with relation to the new concept and report back at the next work session on that issue. McCarty also told council that a concept would have to first be agreed upon, with the three issues worked out in that concept, before FPYC, the Fairfax Little League or the Northern Virginia Christian Academy could decide on if and how much each entity would be willing to contribute toward the construction costs. The Northern Virginia Christian Academy is the private school leasing the Westmore property from the city until 2009. School officials have previously stated they would have an interest in constructing fields on the property, but would be reluctant to do so until they were more certain of the longevity of their stay there, which as of now is just three years.

Lederer then stated that the night’s ball field discussion was essentially useless, since questions still needed to be answered and all councilmembers would need to be present in order to vote on the three issues. The one consensus they did reach was that all four members present do not approve of widening Stafford Drive for street-side parking.

Other actions at the Oct. 10 City Council meeting were:

* A proclamation acknowledging the 60th anniversary of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Blue and Gray Post 9469.

* A proclamation acknowledging Fire Prevention Week.

* A presentation of the City’s Christmas ornament to the City Council by Delores Testerman of the Women’s Club.

* The work session discussion of amendments to definitions and zoning districts for child care centers and home child care facilities.

* The discussion of sound walls along George Mason Boulevard has been moved to the next work session, Tuesday, Oct. 24.

* Three ordinances have been moved to the Oct. 24 for a public hearing: an ordinance amending the City Code pertaining to motorized devices permitted on roadways; an ordinance amending the City Code about the regulation of certain food and food service establishments; an ordinance amending the City Code to add a new article relating to the regulation of tattoo parlors.