Despite months of meeting with city officials and neighborhood representatives, Capital University's plan to add lights and a new sound system to its Bernlohr Stadium is on hold again -- for now.
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler told residents who gathered Friday, March 28, at Montrose Elementary School that Capital's revised stadium plan will not appear on the agenda of the Planning Commission's April 7 special meeting, as had been previously announced.
Capital spokeswoman Nichole Johnson said the university is reviewing a "Planning Approval Conditions" document that the city drafted. The document would enable the university to move forward with installing lights and sound to the stadium, but would enact restrictions enforceable by city code.
"The document drafted by the city and discussed at the last meeting with the South Bexley Neighborhood Association was more complex than when we started," Johnson said. "Its content extends beyond issues of lights and sound and reaches into other operational areas of the institution. So we need to take some time to review it and fully understand its impact on the university and its students before we move forward."
During the March 28 meeting, Kessler, other city officials and SBNA representatives discussed the changes the university has made to its stadium plan since it was first submitted to the Planning Commission last April. Capital withdrew its proposal in June after residents expressed concerns about noise, traffic congestion and safety issues, especially at proposed night games that the stadium enhancements would allow.
The university submitted a revised stadium proposal in October and later tabled it to gather more community input, holding two public meetings last fall. In January, SBNA members elected four representatives -- Eloise Buker, David Greene, Larry Matteson and Megan Northrup -- to meet with Capital and city officials to revise the stadium plan. The group began meeting weekly on Jan. 17 and met most recently on March 24.
Buker said she hopes the meetings with Capital and SBNA can continue so the university and residents can maintain a productive relationship.
"We hope there can be more dialogue on a regular basis between Capital and south Bexley residents," she said. "That's what's needed, so that we don't just come together on a crisis ... This organization is very valuable for that kind of dialogue."
Based on input from all parties who participated in the weekly meetings that have taken place since January, Jason Sudy, the city's commercial plan reviewer, drafted the Planning Approval Conditions document. The document would enable the Planning Commission, for example, to stipulate that instead of four 110-foot light poles that are proposed, Capital should install one 110-foot light pole at Bernlohr Stadium, complemented by other poles that could be as short as 70 feet. It could also state the lights would have to be turned off by 8 p.m.
A solution to minimize noise would be to install speakers above the stands and aim them down toward spectators so that decibel levels could be kept as low as possible.
"(Capital representatives) indicated that their new (sound) system would be less intrusive into the neighborhood" than the existing one, Sudy said.
To minimize traffic congestion in the neighborhoods surrounding Capital, the Planning Approval Conditions document recommends prohibiting parking on residential streets on game days. Violators could be ticketed by Bexley police.
"I do believe that signage and police presence can funnel the traffic where we need it to go," said Bexley Police Chief Larry Rinehart, who participated in the meetings with Capital and the SBNA.
To address security concerns, the document recommends Capital hire one special-duty police officer for games attended by at least 500 people, two officers for crowds of 1,000 and three officers for crowds exceeding 1,500.
If and when Capital does submit its revised stadium plan to the Planning Commission, the city would submit the Planning Approval Conditions document as recommendations for the commission to consider.
"We're trying to provide a set of tools that are helpful to Capital, that are helpful to the neighborhood," Kessler said, "and, ultimately, to the Planning Commission."
The commission could decide to implement all or parts of the Planning Approval Conditions document or reject it altogether and approve Capital's plan without conditions. The commission also could decide to outright deny Capital's application.
To view complete details of Capital's revised stadium plan and for updates about any future public meetings related to the plan, go to bexley.org/stadium.