Commentary: Is the Roanoke City School System Above the Law?

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Roanoke City Schools want to change the proffers (“rules of use”) for the Patrick Henry High School stadium again. Now they are asking for unlimited use of the Stadium’s lights. They also want to allow the PH marching band to practice and middle school athletic teams to use the stadium and other sporting events that could start at any time.

I went to a recent “informational” meeting at the Greater Raleigh Court Civic League where Mr. Carson told us that lights were needed because there was not enough “daytime” for spring PH teams to practice in the stadium.

How does adding additional users to the stadiums’ already full lineup solve that problem unless the school intends to keep the lights on well into the night? How much does this cost? Why not limit the use of practice lights to 7 PM?

There was absolutely no mention of the middle schools using the stadium. How will they get there? The band’s use was briefly mentioned but dismissed because it’s not an athletic sport and the noise factor. Yet both would get to use the stadium in the proposed proffers. The section about how many home football games can be played in the stadium was deleted. I guess there will be more of them, not less as promised.  Parks and Rec youth football would be able to use the PA for championship games, as would Lacrosse. Why should we allow any of these changes when the School does not abide by the existing laws and proffers already in place?

City Code Sec.21-43.1 prohibits stadium lights on after 10 PM. Repeatedly the school violated this code. Almost all football games this year had lights on after 10 PM. Since this is an ongoing “problem” why hasn’t the school addressed it?  Why hasn’t the city enforced this violation?

The School has also violated the proffers already in place.  Number 7 of the existing proffers says: “Lights will only be used in the event of darkness to complete a game” This past season soccer and lacrosse lights were on in broad daylight. This is our money being wasted. Last year game lights were on from mid March to mid May for a total of 29 days. One game had lights on after 11 PM.

The school has received many complaints about the PA system and band being extremely loud during the games. I called the school several times to complain and was told, “The sound is within acceptable limits.” At first I found this odd since businesses, neighbors, loud car radios and even barking dogs get ticketed for loud noise. I even spoke to Mr. Carson by phone while a game was going on so he could hear how loud it was. I also pointed out to the school that the sound system is louder outside the stadium than inside the stadium.

I spoke to Mayor Bowers and he said, “I thought that would happen.” When pressed as to what could be done he said, “write a letter to the editor.” OK Mr. Mayor here is your letter now can you address this problem? People have told me that they can hear the band from inside their home even though they live several blocks away.

Still the school has not addressed this serious problem. But apparently they don’t really have to. I reviewed Roanoke City’s Noise Ordinance and found to my surprise that schools are exempt from the Roanoke City’s noise code.

We are all citizens in this community and should be treated equally. Is it fair that the school is exempt from the noise ordinance, yet you and I can be ticketed? What about the adults and children in the surrounding neighborhood? Don’t they have the right to sleep when they want, enjoy their yards and decks without a PA System or band practice drowning out their thoughts. Just think, your children are being taught by an administration that doesn’t follow the rules and is apparently “above the law.”

The Planning Commission will hear this on Thursday, Jan 21st and if action is taken at that time, the matter will go before City Council at their Feb.16th public hearing.

Please voice your opinion to each Commissioner and Roanoke City Council member. You can reach the Planning Commission by e-mailing Martha Franklin, Planning Coordinator City of Roanoke via [email protected]

Once these new proffers are approved there is no recourse for any citizen to complain or change them. The school can always resubmit a request for this version or some other version again, but you, as a citizen won’t be able to change a thing. That is why you must speak out during this process.

Maureen Meiger
Roanoke, Va.