Lights are out for Carroll Senior High, commission decides

The Dragons lost the fight over lighting ball fields at Carroll Senior High School Thursday night, but another round is coming later this month.

The three-hour meeting of the Southlake Planning and Zoning Commission went deep into the night and drew more than 100 people. It was a battle of school spirit and passion vs. organized opposition from neighbors.

And organized opposition won, as the commission turned down the Carroll Independent School District's request for a variance to permit the lighting. The decision, though, is only a recommendation, to which the City Council is not bound.

"We are friends, classmates, but above all, we are teammates," softball player Alexa Wimberly, joined by five more players at the podium, told the commission. "Living in Southlake was a choice our parents made for us The Dragon tradition is what we are taught to protect. It defines us on and off the field."

Opponents of lighting the softball and baseball fields, who live in the neighboring Stone Lake and Park Place subdivisiions, were prepared with a coordinated presentation. Each came to the podium ready to address a specific piece of the issue, so they covered all their ground despite a three-minute per person time limit set because of the large number of speakers.

They told the commission the lights will be brighter than the district says, and accused the district of breaking previous promises to not put in lights. Derek Citty, assistant superintendent for administrative services, told the commission no written evidence of such promises was found.

The opponents also raised concerns about the potential danger posed by the light poles and about safety around the fields during night games.

The district wants the lights so that varsity softball and baseball teams can play night games at home. Citty said that would mean using the lights roughly 25 times a year.

The issue has been contentious since November. Several hundred people came to the school board meetings where the lighting was considered and finally approved.

The commission, after hearing several hours of presentations from both sides, asked Citty about alternatives to lighting the fields, and then went into a closed session to discuss legal matters.

One alternative would be using the city's Bicentennial Park, which already is lighted.

The commission returned quickly and recommended denial of the request because it failed to meet any of the requirements for a variance.

Those requirements include findings that the lighting system cannot reasonably comply with standards and supply enough light for safety; that literally applying the ordinance would result in "practical difficulty and unnecessary hardship"; and that strictly applying the ordinance wouldn't serve its intended purpose.

The City Council is scheduled to hear the matter at a public hearing Jan. 15.