Darden Towe Softball Lighting




Public hearing to consider County approval to allow future lighting of Towe Park softball fields.




Messrs. Tucker, Elliott, Davis, and Mullaney







October 8, 2008


ACTION:     X          INFORMATION:   



  ACTION:              INFORMATION:   











On May 19, 2008, City Council adopted a new master plan for McIntire Park which defined the exact boundaries for the YMCA lease area and the desired redevelopment of the remaining park land in that area of McIntire Park.  The proposed location of the YMCA and the associated parking encroaches upon the two existing lighted softball fields.  The remaining softball field area is proposed to be converted to a rectangular athletic field to serve City and County residents.  In order to maintain the current level of service for softball, City and County staff have recommended that the three softball fields at Darden Towe Park be lighted.  In addition, the City plans to light the Charlottesville High School softball field in the spring of 2009. 


The 2007 Darden Towe Park Agreement between the City and the County (Attachment A) requires the mutual agreement of both jurisdictions to light any competitive sport or other recreation facility at this park.  This matter was referred to the Darden Towe Park Committee (“Committee”) for a recommendation and a Committee meeting was held on May 29, 2008.  The Committee recommended that the Board and Council each set this item for public hearing in order to receive input from the public prior to taking action.  At its July 2, 2008 meeting, the Board approved scheduling this item for public hearing. 



Goal 1:  Enhance the Quality of Life for all Citizens.

Goal 2:  Develop Policies and Infrastructure Improvements to Address the County’s Growing Needs.




There are three softball fields at Darden Towe Park which are presently not lighted.  Staff recommends that the Board of Supervisors approves the lighting of these fields for the following reasons:

·         Darden Towe Park is in the Pantops Development Area.

·         It is the only publicly owned regional recreational sports complex in the area and serves residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle County and surrounding counties.

·         Lighted facilities are typically provided in regional parks.

·         The long standing City League Softball Program has 160 teams and 2400 participants from the City (20%), the County (46%), and other localities (34%), and would have to be reduced by 40 – 50% if the additional playing time is not made possible.  This would impact approximately 240 City residents and 552 County residents.

·         No existing alternative space is available for the program.

·         Lighting the fields is the most efficient way to provide additional playing time.

·         Lighting technology, the natural terrain and the large buffer of park land around the fields will allow lighting with a minimal impact to surrounding properties.

·         City League Softball uses no amplified sound system and games would not extend beyond 10:00pm.

·         City League Softball draws few spectators after 8:00pm and by 9:00pm less than 100 people are expected to be in the park.



Staff recognizes that lighting of the facilities at Darden Towe Park has been a concern of park neighbors since the City and County entered into an agreement to establish the park in 1986.  (Attachment B)  When the park was being planned in the mid 1980’s, it represented the first park of its kind in Albemarle County with multiple facilities for field sports such as soccer, lacrosse, and softball.  Nearby residents were very concerned about the potential negative impacts of this new park and in response to these concerns the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors strongly opposed lighting of the athletic facilities.  As requested by the Board, the minutes of the February 5, 1986 Board of Supervisors meeting (Attachment C), which included a public hearing on the Comprehensive Plan amendment for what is now Darden Towe Park, are attached.


Staff believes that the adverse impact of reducing the City League Softball Program by 792 City and County participants if the lighting is not approved exceeds any negative impact of lighting the fields.  To minimize negative impact, staff recommends that the lighting be used only for recreational league play and that no lighting be allowed on Friday or Saturday nights.  Staff further recommends that no lighting be allowed from November 1 through March 21, except as necessary to accommodate weather related make up games for the fall City League Softball Program.  In addition, staff is investigating a “full cut-off” lighting system which is gaining popularity on the west coast but has yet to be used in the eastern United States.  If determined to be feasible, this system may allow lighting of the softball fields while meeting the intent of the Outdoor Lighting provision of the County’s Zoning Ordinance better than traditional “shielded aimable” lighting systems. 


Staff has prepared a Resolution for the Board’s consideration (Attachment D) to allow the lighting contingent on approval by the City and the approval of an acceptable funding and lighting plan.




The total cost estimate for lighting the softball fields is approximately $550,000 while the annual operating cost is estimated to be $5,250.  Capital and operating costs are divided between the City and County based on the relative population of the two localities.  Participation from other localities would be requested and other fund raising strategies considered if the Board and Council approve the lighting of the fields.  There is no budget impact at this time.  Future project implementation will depend on the development of an acceptable funding and lighting plan.




After the public hearing, staff recommends that the Board adopt the attached resolution to approve the lighting of the softball fields at Darden Towe Park.




A – 2007 Darden Towe Park Agreement

B – 1986 Darden Towe Park Agreement

C – 1986–02–05 Minutes

D – Resolution – Darden Towe Park Softball Lighting

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