Seven residents living near First Baptist Concord opposing proposed ballfield lighting at Concord Christian School spoke out during Farragut Municipal Planning Commission’s meeting Thursday, Sept. 16.
The matter was on the agenda for discussion purposes only, as feedback was sought on CCS considering installation of a new type of field lighting that would require pole heights of up to 80 feet.
Jeff Jordan of Alabama architecture firm Forrest Daniell & Associates spoke on behalf of the project. He is working with CCS staff on the lighting proposal as well as construction of a 28,000-square-foot second floor on top of the school’s current educational building.
“The lighting is custom-designed to minimize spillover,” said Mark Shipley, Town Community Development director.
Before the lights could be installed, an amendment to the Town’s Municipal Code would have to be approved.
“I’ve been a neighbor of the church over 27 years,” Tom Reed said. “The church has a wonderful facility, part church and part school, and it’s used quite a bit. Lighting is really a small piece of this. You need to consider other things, like noise, (public address system), that’s kind of what’s going on now.”
“Things that happened in the past we are concerned might happen again,” David White said about resident concerns in the late 2000s. “When the church decided to build the school, there were meetings with the residents. They told us they were buying (homes in the Belleaire neighborhood) that would be used for traveling evangelists. Not so. They tore them down, moved the entrance road and encroached on the subdivision.
“The former pastor (the late Rev. Dr. Doug Sager) — he’s not there now, he has passed on — but he guaranteed, if they had any athletic fields, they would have no lights or a PA system. Was that in writing anywhere? No. Why would you put it in writing if you were talking to a pastor?
“We need to leave things like they are,” White added. “We do not want the lights or the PA. They can play during the day. They’ve done it before. We are asking you to consider us. Think about the neighborhood.”
“My husband and I have been residents of Belleaire almost 26 years,” Jeanne Brykalski said. “It is the Town’s oldest subdivision and pre-dates the church. Down through the years, the church has made many promises to us on many varieties of subject, and unfortunately they did not keep the majority of them.
“There is a problem with distrust,” she added. “Once again these projects, these plans, have been developed to a point, and ready to move on; (a church official) never once came to anyone in the subdivision, and said, ‘Hey we have some ideas about how we would like to expand, do y’all have any concerns or questions?’” she continued.
“Before, during the big expansion, they didn’t come to us until basically it was a done deal. We are ignored, and this is where the distrust once again, comes up.”
Christine Horwege of Fort West talked about a need “to think of lighting not just on the fields. I live in Fort West. We don’t have sidewalks and are not allowed to have lighting.”
She said she had been “shut down” by the neighborhood Home Owners Association regarding the situation. “They said because of the ordinances, we were not allowed to have lights because of the glare. It would be great if there could be some rewording of the ordinance” to help neighborhoods.
Tim Wilson and David Starling, both of Derby Chase, also spoke in opposition.
“I think (the church) wants to do good things. But nobody is talking about the 80-foot poles towering above my house,” Wilson said. “I go to bed earlier and earlier, now, and I hear things when they have activities. It doesn’t have to be there to convert a soul. It’s beyond the purpose, in my opinion, of what that church is there for.
“I don’t mean to be sarcastic, and I don’t mean to be contentious, but this is our life,” he added.
“I think this shouldn’t be viewed as a lighting issue,” Starling said. “But look at the lighting, look at the noise. look at the impact, the collateral impact to the home owners in that subdivision.
“You can control the lighting, but what do you do with the noise?” he added. “Whoever put the light ordinance together did it with a lot of thought, a lot of care. I believe those were put into place to protect other residents like myself. If we are going to revise this ordinance, we need to make absolutely sure what the consequences of changing it are going to be.”
When contacted Monday, Sept. 27, FBC leadership issued the following statement: “... We believe that the draw of sports, both to our school and church, allows us greater opportunity to spread the Gospel.
“Our Concord Sports programs instill Christian values in children and have positively impacted countless families. ... We are also committed to minimizing the impact to our friends around us. The lighting selected will have almost zero impact beyond our property lines. ... sound technology has improved greatly in recent years and we will deploy something that is as controlled as possible and of high quality to better protect those around us.
“Last week’s meeting at the Town was to simply put the many advancements in lighting quality on display in presentation form for the Town to see. ...”
Many were impressed that lighting could now be controlled in such a defined and measured way around the subject property. We are still in the development process on the specific locations of the fields on our property according to town codes and to minimize any negative impact on our neighbors. ...”
“Rest assured that we will continue to strive to accomplish our mission of inspiring people to follow Jesus on our campus and throughout our region, while deploying high-quality technology to better protect our friends around us.”