Kennedy president backs away from blaming city for blocking football facility


Print This Post  Email This Post

EisimingerAerial

By Jack Mayne

The president of Kennedy Catholic High School has backed away from his earlier comments in a letter to all of the school’s parents and others that officials at the City of Burien had added “accelerated” and “unexpected” conditions, in effect blocking the use of their new sports complex this fall.

The city denied it had added any conditions for the stadium upgrade to add lights and increasing capacity and other improvements, many objected to by the school’s nearby homeowners.

Burien officials said all the requirements that the school had to meet were in the original response last year to the school’s permit requests.

There was another meeting last week with city Community Development Director Chip Davis and Economic Development Manager Dan Trimble apparently to sort out the situation. They had no further comments on the matter.

Photographs for kennedy high school brochure

Mike Prato

‘Miscommunications’
Kennedy President Mike Prato said in an email Tuesday (June 14) to The B-Town Blog that he had met again with the school’s architects.

“Truly, going about this as relative novices (school districts have entire departments for this), sometimes not knowing the questions to ask causes miscommunications,” Prato told The B-Town Blog. “Clearly on the permitting side, our understanding of the expectations for the scope of work and the City’s response to their interpretation of the scope of work and triggers were different.”

Prado said in his email to the Blog that there “is no perfect answer when one goes into permitting.”

“We received a bid on the cost of just the landscaping. The civil department that manages curbs and gutters and grading still hasn’t weighed in.”

Prato added in his June 14 email to the Blog that, “Going ahead, our original phases will be modified to account for the timing of street improvements and landscaping plans and the clear expectation that lead to the use of the field.”

First, the city was blamed
The whole matter began in late May when a letter from Prato (download PDF here) was sent to parents and friends of the school to tell them there will be no public games or other events – including football – on the school’s newly-improved sports facility.

Prato said then that it was because the City of Burien had added “accelerated” and “unexpected” conditions that must be fulfilled before the field can be used.

When asked by the Blog about the Prato comments, city officials said all of the requirements Kennedy had to meet prior to a final land use permit were communicated to school officials by the end of 2015. If those items had been finished by the end of this summer, Kennedy could have begun using the new stadium complex by this fall.

The school was told what had to be done in October 2015 and again after a public hearing in December 2015, which followed a neighboring resident’s appeal to the earlier ruling, said Davis, the city’s Community Development Director. All the specifics necessary so that final permits could be issued by the city were available, he said.

If those things had been completed or would have been completed by fall, Davis said the school could have begun using what has been named the William F. Eisiminger Field.

Prato’s letter to parents
“We cannot even begin to explain how disappointing this is,” said the May 24 letter Prato sent to parents and friends of he Roman Catholic high school.

“We have been diligent and honorable in our attempt to partner with the City of Burien working through this process,” Prato wrote.

“However, regardless of the setback, we intend to continue working toward our goal of hosting varsity football on our field. We can celebrate the fact that every single day, the William F. Eisiminger field is in use in countless ways by our students, families, our athletic teams, numerous activity groups including our marching band and daily fitness classes. The field has been, and continues to be, an incredible gift to our students and entire school community.”

The school president said on April 21, “in accordance with city planning requirements, we submitted an application to the City of Burien to move forward with the installation of our scoreboard and temporary bleacher seating along the south side of the athletic field.

“In order for us to proceed with either of these projects, an occupancy permit approved by the City of Burien is required.”

But that permit approval was not granted, Prato wrote.

‘Unexpected’ conditions
“On May 18, we received a response which included a list of 18 permit conditions from the City of Burien,” Prato wrote to parents in May.

“These conditions were unexpected and after consulting with our architects, we learned the City of Burien included an accelerated list of conditions originally required during later phases of our construction plans. These accelerated conditions appear related to the community opposition and, according to the City of Burien, are intended to ensure minimal impact on the neighborhood near the north side of the field.”

He went on to say that “discussion and analysis” with professional advisors “familiar with the project and the new conditions, it is clear that we will be unable to complete the eighteen conditions prior to the time the varsity football season begins this fall.

“Therefore, Kennedy Catholic will be unable to host home Varsity football games on our field again this season,” Prato wrote. “Home games will be played at Highline stadium as they have in years’ past.

“We are grateful to our community for their on-going encouragement throughout this long process and we ask once again, for your continued support as we navigate this next phase of our efforts,” Prato wrote in May to friends and parents.

This ‘Stop Work Order’ was posted at the athletic field by the City of Burien in Sept. 2014.

History of concerns
Last October the city approved a variance for fences and lighting for the football field and tennis courts “subject to some conditions, including parking plans and various frontage, utility, surface water plans and other improvements.”

All of the school’s plans had to be approved by Burien officials.

Neighbors to the north were concerned about the lights for the two activities and the noise particularly from football games.

So the school and the city agreed lights were to be of a modern type the city staff said would utilize “fixture housing with shielding to focus the lighting on the field and external visors to reduce impacts of glare, spill light and sky glow.”

Then, the city and school said the stadium sound system “will not have user-adjustable volume controls and will be set to not operate above 65 decibels (equivalent to a normal voice level at approximately three feet) when measured at any location along the northern residential property line. Band music and cheering associated with evening varsity football games will be limited to four-five games per year from approximately 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.”

Traffic and parking fears
There were neighborhood concerns about what more than games and tennis would be allowed in their single-family neighborhood. The city said that was permitted, noting such uses at Highline High School and at Mount Rainier High School in Des Moines.

“Given these local examples, the nature of the proposed athletic field improvements is considered to be a use that is ordinarily associated with a normal school athletic field and should be allowed in the existing single-family zone.”

Parking and traffic were major concerns of neighbors who worried about the negative impacts of traffic and parking.

Burien said the school had to “submit signed parking agreements from Fred Meyer or other property owners within a reasonable distance showing that a minimum of 135 off-site parking stalls have been secured for future varsity football games …”

It also had to adhere to city rules concerning impacting traffic and Kennedy had obtained a traffic plan, which requires use of school security staff and off-duty Burien police that “should be stationed on street corners and sidewalks in the surrounding neighborhood, directing vehicles to park on the campus. After varsity football games, game day personnel and Burien police officers should direct vehicles exiting the campus to First Avenue.”

The school should search for free parking for those attending games and other events and to instruct team buses to park only on the school grounds.

Resident appeals
Will Spruill, a resident who has lived next to the athletic field for 16 years, appealed the expansion and increased use of the facility, leading to a public hearing last Dec. 1 (read Spruill’s Letter to the Editor here).

The hearing examiners’ report said Spruill “testified that, under the proposed plan, up to 33 school varsity football, soccer, and lacrosse games could be held on the site,” and was concerned that the “facility could become a private sports complex and be rented out for non-Kennedy Catholic High School sporting events.”

The hearing examiner’s report said Spruill told the hearing “that two years ago when a junior football league used the field for a month that resulted in loud spectators and drug and alcohol use near his property. He expressed his concern that private sporting events, which could be held on weekends, would result in drug and alcohol use near his property as has occurred in the past.”

At the same hearing in December, Michael Prato, the president of Kennedy Catholic High School, said that use of the field “would be for Kennedy Catholic teams or teams affiliated with Kennedy Catholic or the Archdiocese of Seattle.”

Spruill said he worried that the term “affiliated” is too open ended.

Prato told the December hearing that there would be additional practices as well as varsity football games and possibly Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) events “but that no private rental or private events would be authorized.”

A lawyer for the school, John W. Hempelmann, said Kennedy was “willing to stipulate that there would be no renting to private sponsors, and that the only use of the field would be for Kennedy Catholic High School and entities affiliated with the owner of the school, which is the Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle.”

Print This Post  Email This Post

Comments

3 Responses to “Kennedy president backs away from blaming city for blocking football facility”
  1. Dan Trimble says:

    I did have a one on one lunch meeting with Mike during that time frame. We discussed many subjects related to education, economic development, and about the schools upcoming anniversary. However, we did not discuss any past or current permitting issues.

  2. Lee Moyer says:

    Did Prato send out a correcting follow up letter? That would seem appropriate.

  3. Cedric da Entertainer says:

    Who will get their stadium build first…Mike Prato or Chris Hansen?

Share Your Opinion

By participating in our online comment system, you are agreeing to abide by the terms of our comment policy.

...and oh, if you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!