Frequently asked questions
This is a collection of questions we've asked staff and/or read the answers to on NextDoor.com. Not all of this information is found in writing, which has been frustrating to us, so we hope this is a help to you. If a question is not answered here, please contact Fairfax County's Pat Rosend (project manager for this project) at 703-324-2387 or via email at Patricia.Rosend@fairfaxcounty.gov.
Why is public input being sought?
The request to light the baseball fields must go through a public comment process because it is in the deed today that the County cannot "...install and/or utilize any lighting, permanent concession areas and/or permanent sound systems on the property..." (page 2). There is an open question as to if the ending phrase "This Quitclaim Deed and the provisions hereof...shall run with the land in perpetuity." (page 3) only applies to the Restrictive Conservation Covenant area, and not to the lighting. Nonetheless, the deed currently prevents lighting from being installed.
This deed restriction came about via a community taskforce which was formed in 1999/2000 when the sports-specific part of Clermont Park was enlarged (and trees were lost) from 2 baseball fields and a soccer field to 4 baseball fields. (see document)
What is happening, when?
Dec 3, 2019
4:30pm Public Hearing: Board of Supervisors to decide on next steps; hearing and approval of revising the deed restrictions
Agenda and the Board package is available online.
Search the PDF for "Clermont" to see details (p. 514+)
Take action! Sign up to speak OR email your comments to ensure the public has a voice on the vote.
Date TBD: Park Authority Board consideration and approval of the Master Plan Amendment with lighting added
Recently past events
Aug 26, 2019: 30-day public comment period ends
Oct 2019: Supervisor McKay created a short term Clermont Park Task Force to further discuss the proposed addition of lights at the park. Task force has met on Oct 15, Oct 24, and Nov 6th. Next meeting is Dec 2.
Nov 21, 2019
7pm public meeting @ Clermont Elementary School to present task force outcomes - see materials from meeting
What alternatives had been presented to the public?
No alternatives have been presented to the public.
However, during the October task force meetings, Pioneer Baseball League agreed that implementing the 2006 Lee District Park Master Plan would satisfy their need. The County's concern is that implementing this plan would mean a change for the current football league which would no doubt illicit additional push back.
It seems that breaking a current deed may be more palatable to the County than fulling a Master Plan which would mean changes to football.
How many fields have been requested to be lit?
The initial request from Pioneer Baseball League to the County was to light the back two fields that they lease (page 2).
However, at the July 25th public meeting, the Northern Virginia Girls Soft Ball Association (who hadn't been included in the first ask, it seems) showed strong support for lighting the front two fields (the ones they lease; bottom of page 2, speaker 03). In a call to Pat Rosend on 8/15, it sounded as though it was possible that the County would consider lighting all 4 fields, walkways, and the parking lot. This would have the potential to increase noise and traffic over and above the initial ask of 2 fields.
What are the benefits to this proposed change?
The benefits will be directly for the kids and team leagues who currently use these fields. Two explanations have been given by Pioneer members: (1) games will be able to be spaced out later into the evening, especially in the spring and fall and (2) there is a need for more field time as the league grows. (Note: Fairfax County has not presented data to support the latter issue.)
There are currently no other proposed changes to Clermont Park that may benefit a wider population of park users, such a an investment from Fairfax County in their severely degraded and collapsed walking trails in this area. In fact, the passive recreation use of this park has been largely ignored for decades and paths are now nearly unusable in areas due to stormwater runoff and erosion.
Besides the primary issues highlighted, are there other drawbacks?
The issue of trash at FCPA athletic fields was discussed at a March 20, 2019 meeting of the Fairfax County Athletic Council. Their minutes from that meeting included this callout: "Mr. Brown [Todd Brown, FCPA Park Operations staff member] also urged the Council to get the word out regarding trash being left on athletic fields. He indicated that FCPA staff spends 20% of its time picking up trash when that time could be devoted to field prepping."
Do we want additional night time usage to contribute to a trash problem in our park?
How were stakeholders engaged?
How late will the lights stay on?
We have done our best to bring together a timeline of known engagement with the public on this topic:
9/11/18 - Fairfax County public meeting at Clermont Elementary School
It is unclear how stakeholders were notified other than the NextDoor.com announcement
10/11/18 - Postcards were mailed to by Loft Ridge HOA's management company to Loft Ridge HOA about lighting but did not mention the deed restriction
10/18/18 - Loft Ridge HOA meeting specifically to talk about lighting; unclear if deed restriction was discussed
Late June/early July 2019 - postcards mailed to announce a generic "Master Plan Revision" (with no mention of lighting); it seems that only properties directly adjacent to Clermont Park were mailed (as opposed to homes within a certain radius of the park), thus excluding a significant number of stakeholders.
7/25/19 - Fairfax County public meeting at Franconia Government Center (documents linked at bottom of this page)
10/15/19 - After significant push back during the public comment period, Supervisor McKay convened a short term task force with community stakeholders including residents opposed to the lights, Pioneer Baseball League and the Northern Virginia Girls Soft Ball Association.
Who did not know about this project?
During the months of July and August 2019, as we have talked to neighbors and attended meetings, we have found that:
If a home was not directly adjacent to Clermont Park, they did not appear to get a postcard for the July 2019 meeting
Direct outreach to the broader community of nearby single family homes was not done, as there was no common HOA or active civic association with which the County could engage.
At the 7/25/19 public meeting, the Northern Virginia Girls Soft Ball Association's comments were: "...the information sessions must have escaped us, so we didn’t have a chance to participate in those. My big question is, how come our organization was never consulted about possibly lighting the softball fields...."
The initial request from Pioneer Baseball League to the County was to have a new deed restriction specified to cap the lights at 9:30pm (bottom page 4, speaker 05) which, if done, would override the County's default zoning ordinance of 11pm (14-904 starting on p.24). However, we see through this process how permanent deed restrictions are (they may not last "in perpetuity" as they are specified today), and as Northern Virginia grows, it is a concern that so too will the demand to have these fields lit longer, bringing more noise and traffic later into the night.
What is the cost and who will pay for the lights?
How much will it cost?
In a late July call with FCPA staff, an initial estimation for lighting 2 fields, walkways, and the parking lot was quoted as $300,000 - $400,000. However, in an email from staff on 8/19/19, they said: "As lights are not currently allowed at Clermont, there has been no discussion of funding for lighting the fields. ... There has been no prior discussion of lighting four fields. We have no estimate of cost ."
What is the ongoing cost of lighting the fields?
In an email from staff on 8/19/19, they said "We do not have a figure for that [a yearly estimation of costs for the lights]."
Who will pay for the lights?
This has also not been finalized. While we have heard mentions that Pioneer may be planning to contribute money (e.g. in the form of a 50/50 Mastenbrook Grant (with a cap of $20,000, for a total of a potential $40,000 investment)), the concern is that county / taxpayer funds would be being used to benefit private organizations. In an email from staff from 8/19/19, they said "Typically Park Authority projects are funded in a variety of ways. Funding sources available include, but are not limited to, bond, revenue, and/or donor groups. ... If lights are installed , the Park Authority assumes all maintenance cost. ... No Mastenbrook grant application has been filed as there is currently no approval to light the fields yet or a commitment by Pioneer to fund."
What has been spent so far on this project?
This is a question which has been asked to staff and we are awaiting the answer. We have heard that it is possible that the International Dark Sky Association Phase I Certification (as described on page 17) cost about $3,000. There has also been the staff time spent to pull together and deliver a handful of public meetings as well as postcard mailings to adjacent park properties. Additional costs will be updated here when we hear back.
Where can I see the proposed lights in person?
Mason District Park's baseball and soccer lights are similar as to what is being proposed. (6621 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003)
You can also see a few photos taken there on August 4, 2019 at 8:30pm.
Have there been any impact studies done on the proposed change?
There has been neither a traffic study nor an environmental impact study done.
What additional changes might happen as a result of this proposed change?
It is impossible to know what might come next for Clermont Park. A change of current deed restrictions means that nothing is out of the question. However, staff has indicated that the following are unlikely to happen:
There is no plan to install permanent bathrooms - the fields are serviced by porta potties
There is no plan to convert the fields to larger fields to allow adults to play - the reconfiguration would be too costly and is not part of the proposal. The fields are expected to serve the current age ranges they do today (e.g. only Field 4 serving older kids as it is larger).
There is no plan to add additional fields of any type.
Other issues to be aware of:
The current deed disallows permanent loudspeakers (day or night)
The current deed disallows permanent concession stands (day or night)
The current parking lot is gravel. Paving of the parking lot, should it be requested in the future due to increased use, would increase impervious surface and contributing to stormwater challenges.