Tuesday, September 1, 2009
7 News Investigations: Light Fight
Imagine spending close to half a million dollars on lights for a football field and then being told you can't use them. Imagine living in a neighborhood and suddenly finding out your quiet way of life is about to change. That's what's happening in a north Fort Lauderdale neighborhood all because of a mistake made by the city. Seven's Patrick Fraser puts some light on what's happening.
WSVN -- Coral Ridge Country Club Estates is one of Fort Lauderdales nicest neighborhoods, beautiful untill you look up.
Towering over the homes are gigantic poles just built to light up Cardinal Gibbons High School football field, but soon they wont have to imagine the lights going on the homeowners next to the football field are about to see it.
James Colonel: "The lights will only benefit the school. They don't benefit the neighborhood in any way."
But whats infuriating neighbors they are illegal
Ed Deeb: "The school does not have the legal authority to have those lights. This residential community is zoned where 35 feet is the height limit and the school does not have 35 foot light poles, the school has 65 and 95 feet light poles."
Two of them 95 feet tall, nearly three times taller than the City of Fort Lauderdale allows and who gave the private catholic high school permission to put up the lights the City of Fort Lauderdale.
Paul Ott: "When we applied for a permit the city granted the permit. We purchased the lights, we put them up, there were several inspections, the city was well aware of everthing that was going on."
But while the City of Fort Lauderdale was well aware of everything that was going on, the neighbors were not told and left in the dark.
Ed Deeb: "It's either a mistake or it was intentional. Everyone's going to have an opinion on that."
The school paid nearly half a million dollars for the lights so students could play night games and avoid hot daytime events at a field nicknamed the Furnace. They cannot believe the installation may have been a mistake.
Paul Ott: "Shocked. Absolutely shocked."
The neighbors look up at the light towers, see pictures of similar poles falliing and think of the damage the poles could do to their homes.
Ed Deeb: "Just as I'm not able to build a ten story building on my lot, they can't build 95 feet light structures on their property."
Patrick Fraser: "In the 1980s, the school tried to get approval to install the lights. They were turned down so why did the City of Fort Lauderdale change its minds and issue this permit? Was it a mistake or intentional? The City of Fort Lauderdale told us they dont want to talk about it."
James Colonel: "The city should be fighting for the homeowners to protect our neighborhoods instead of trying to arbitrate the situation as it is and let them keep the lights."
On thursday, the two sides will go to arbitration and face a mediator. The school believes something can be worked out and the lights can come on.
Paul Ott: "Being angry about it and pointing fingers, that's not going to work towards a solution, and what we're interested in is solving the problem and keeping as many people happy as we possibly can."
But the neighbors wont be happy if their dark nights suddenly turn bright.
James Colonel: "The residents have the right to enjoy their homes and their weekends and their friday nights and this is just simply too much to ask."
One certainity, when its resolved this light fight will leave someone feeling very dark.