Neighbors concerned over new lighting at Heritage High

Residents fear decline in property values, district says it has community support

Posted 7/22/19

Heritage High School in Littleton is slated to open its newly revamped athletic fields by the time school is back in session next month, but some neighbors say the changes are too much to bear. In …

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Neighbors concerned over new lighting at Heritage High

Residents fear decline in property values, district says it has community support

Posted

Heritage High School in Littleton is slated to open its newly revamped athletic fields by the time school is back in session next month, but some neighbors say the changes are too much to bear.

In numerous emails and phone calls to the Independent, neighbors along Meadowbrook Road, which abuts the north end of the Heritage athletic fields, say they weren’t consulted about newly installed field lighting they fear will tank their property values, and worry the district plans to turn the fields into a money-making venture that will bring traffic and crime to their corner of town.

“Who will they be bringing to our very exclusive neighborhood?” said Christine Khorsand, whose back fence abuts the Heritage fields.

Now, Khorsand and her neighbors are asking Littleton Public Schools to take down the lighting and limit the usage of the fields.

District officials, however, say they held numerous community meetings in the months leading up to the vote that approved a bond for projects all over the district, including athletic field upgrades.

The lighting is specially designed to minimize light pollution beyond the fields, said district operations director Terry Davis, and upgraded facilities will be greatly beneficial for students amid an increasingly packed athletic calendar that has only been further squeezed by schedule changes that see kids leave school later in the day.

LPS is open to working with residents, said assistant superintendent Diane Doney, but their first priority is students, many of whom are excited about having a place to practice and play longer into the evening.

“We made a promise to taxpayers,” Doney said. “Just because four or five individuals weren’t aware of these changes doesn’t mean we don’t have widespread support for these projects.”

Khorsand, who said her two daughters graduated from Heritage and said she voted for the bond, said she never heard about any community meetings, and was dismayed in early July to see an 80-foot light tower going up a few feet beyond her back fence. Printed materials about planned field upgrades were vague, Khorsand said.

“The impacts for me are first the view, second the light pollution, and third my property values,” Khorsand said.

The houses bordering the north side of the Heritage grounds — a mix of tri-level, bi-level and two-story homes built from 1967 to 1974 — have an average appraised value of $471,667, according to county records.

Khorsand’s next-door neighbor Kelly McSparran, who also voted for the bond, said this wasn’t what she expected when she moved to the neighborhood in 2017.

“I can’t build an 80-foot pole in my yard, so why can they build one in theirs?” McSparran said. “This isn’t what we voted for.”

McSparran stressed that she is a fan of LPS, and expects her two young children to attend Heritage one day. She also said she is thankful for the conversations she’s had so far with district officials, but said she was unaware of the scope of the planned upgrades.

McSparran said she’s concerned that games will now run late into the evening and the light and noise will keep her kids awake.

“Can I put up curtains? Yes, but it’s frustrating,” McSparran said.

McSparran and Khorsand said they sought recourse through the City of Littleton, but found that the city government has little role in LPS operations.

“The city has no jurisdiction or authority to inspect or restrict the school district’s projects,” said City Manager Mark Relph. “They’re a division of the state, and they don’t have to comply with city light and noise ordinances.”

In addition, Relph said he is not aware of any limit on the height of light poles in Littleton, although buildings are subject to height limits.

Further, Littleton has no lighting curfew, according to city code 10-15-3(c).

Neighbors also reached out to City Councilmember Carol Fey, who represents the area.

“Since Littleton has no jurisdiction, I don’t have anything to say,” Fey said in an email. “Sorry.”

Davis, the district operations manager, said the lights will be off by 10 p.m., and that there are no plans to install grandstands, a public address system or anything that will increase noise.

The district has rented out the fields for years to other groups, Davis said, including the Danny Dietz Foundation, the Littleton Soccer Club, and South Suburban Parks and Recreation. The revenue goes toward upkeep and eventual replacement of the fields and facilities, Davis said.

“It’s always been an expectation of the community that we make our facilities available,” Davis said. “I’d argue that the vast majority of participants in those events are LPS students anyway.”

The increased lighting came as a directive from the school board after the district agreed to shift school start and end times to later in the day in 2017, said Doney, the assistant superintendent.

“They wanted us to make sure there would be time for fall athletics to have activities on the fields when it gets dark so early,” Doney said. In years past, activities on the field had to cease at sunset, which by late fall can be as early as 5 p.m.

The towers feature laser-guided LED lights that are designed to be sharply directional with minimal spillover, Davis said, and have not yet been switched on for the first time.

Davis said he’s looking into mitigation efforts for neighbors, including building a berm or planting trees.

“But as far as the top of the lights, there’s nothing I can do short of building a dome over the fields,” Davis said.

Doney said the district will continue to work to alleviate neighbor concerns.

“But the bottom line is, we put these lights in for the safety and security of our students who practice on these fields or play games,” Doney said.

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