City officials are now agreeing to spend some money to try to settle a lighting dispute with a homeowner near the Rock Chalk Park sports complex.
The city is planing to spend about $2,500 to hire an engineering firm to examine whether a series of 100-foot light poles at the northwest Lawrence sports complex will unduly cause light to shine onto adjacent properties.
Whether the new engineering study will settle the dispute with nearby homeowner Jack Graham is still unclear.
“I guess the place to start is to determine what the impact will be, and then we’ll have to see what we can do to improve it,” said Rick Hird, a Lawrence attorney representing Graham.
Scott McCullough, the city’s director of planning, said Candela, a national engineering firm that specializes in lighting design, will determine how much light will spill onto adjacent properties if all the lights at the sports complex were turned on at once.
McCullough said the city — rather than Rock Chalk Park’s private development group— plans to pay for this portion of the study, in part, because the city believes the engineering review goes above what city code calls for in a photometric plan.
McCullough said the city is moving ahead with the study because it is trying to accommodate Graham’s request for more information about the lighting system, which will include lights for a soccer field, softball complex and an outdoor track and field stadium. The issue is complicated, however, by the city’s admission that it erred when it issued a building permit for the complex prior to presenting a photometric plan for the approval by the Lawrence City Commission.
When city commissioners approved the zoning for the sports complex last year, it was done with the condition that a lighting plan would be presented to the commission prior to building permits being issued for the project. Graham’s attorney called that to the city’s attention in December.
The project’s development group, Lawrence builder Thomas Fritzel’s Bliss Sports, has since presented a lighting plan to the city’s planning office for review. But Hird said the document is inadequate, in part, because it didn’t involve an engineer’s review.
Hird said his client understands there will be some light glare from the tall poles, but Hird said the city may need to do more to limit the number and types of events at the complex.
“What the complex can be used for is really very open ended,” Hird said, citing concerns the complex may become a general entertainment venue.
As previously reported, Fritzel’s Bliss Sports will own the stadiums and other facilities and lease them to Kansas Athletics. But the lease does give Fritzel the ability to host other events at the facility, although nonsporting events will require a permit from City Hall.
McCullough said he hopes to have results from the engineering study in about 10 days. At some point, city commissioners will be asked to approve a lighting plan for the project. In the meantime, work on the lighting at the site has been halted, but all other work has been allowed to continue.