Loudoun County has proposed installing athletic field lighting at Scott Jenkins Memorial Park in Hamilton off of East Colonial Highway. Having access to public parks is an important part of any community, but location and design matters. Many nearby residents, business owners and environmental groups have expressed concerns about the impacts that lights would have on dark skies, wildlife habitat, and nearby agricultural operations because of the park’s rural location. You can read about some of PEC’s specific concerns in our comments to the Planning Commission below.
It’s worth noting that the approved 2009 special exception application for the park prohibited lighted ballfields based on community concerns about the impacts of light pollution.
The county is holding an open comment period through Friday, March 4, 2022 and we encourage people to share their comments/concerns. The easiest way to submit comments is by using the online project comment form >>
Learn more about the project and other ways to submit comments at https://www.loudoun.gov/scottjenkinsparkphase3.
Field lighting at the park will be discussed at the March 11, 2022 Planning Commission work session. The public will have an additional opportunity to comment on this project during a future Board of Supervisors Public Hearing, to be scheduled by May 22.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below are the comments submitted by PEC to the Planning Commission public hearing held on January 25, 2022:
Good Evening Planning Commissioners,
My name is Evan McCarthy and I am speaking on behalf of the Piedmont Environmental Council. The Piedmont Environmental Council works to promote and protect the natural resources, rural economy, history, and beauty of Virginia’s Piedmont. Consequently, I’d like to share a few comments on the proposal and its potential impact on nearby rural businesses and the scenic nature of the rural policy area. The 2009 special exception application associated with the park prohibits lighted ballfields due to concerns that excess light would impact a nearby nursery. County staff mentioned in their statement of justification that the nursery is no longer in business however the owner submitted a public comment stating that the nursery is only temporarily closed due to the pandemic. It appears this issue has been resolved. However, I still urge the commission to initiate conversations with the nursery owner to see if they have any concerns about the proposal. Rural businesses are an important component of preserving the rural policy area. Proposals such as this must consider how they will impact the rural policy area and its dependency on productive agricultural land.
It’s important to note that lighted ballfields are a permitted use onsite according to the zoning ordinance. The allowable illumination limit is 10 foot candles. The county is proposing a maximum brightness of .62 foot candles. This is considerably less. The county is also proposing to use energy-efficient lighting and fully cutoff and shield the light fixtures, pointing them downward and inward toward the interior of the park. These are good conditions. However, please also consider the community’s position on the proposal.
There are approximately 28 comments on LOLA, all of which object to the proposal. Please speak with these community members and hear their concerns about light pollution and its negative impacts on wildlife and the dark sky that the county itself recognizes as an asset that should be protected. The January 18 letter from Joyce and Henry Harris in particular identifies a wide range of negative wildlife impacts and other ways the proposal could harm the area.
If this proposal moves forward, I urge the commission to reconsider the hours of operation of the lighted ballfields. Allowing exterior lighting until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 p.m. on the weekends will significantly change the character of the area. As one member of the public mentioned on LOLA, perhaps the lights could be shut off at 9 p.m. as Franklin Park might do. I’d also like to note that scientific findings that have demonstrated that white and blue spectrum
LED lighting has a greater negative impact on insects. If this does go forward, please also consider modifying the light color to yellow or amber to minimize those impacts.
Thank you for your attention,
Loudoun County Field Representative
The Piedmont Environmental Council