City Wants More Talk Between St. Aug’s and Neighbors

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City councilors are calling for more communication between St. Augustine’s College and the surrounding neighborhood after some residents opposed the college’s application for a second amendment to their permit to host big events at the school’s new stadium.

“We shouldn’t be refereeing this,” said Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin. “They should be working together.”

St. Aug’s applied for a change to their special-use permit, which limits the amount of events that could be held at their not-yet-built stadium to 15. That consists of six football games, six track and field meets and three other school-sponsored events.

The change would allow St. Aug’s to host an unlimited number of events sponsored by nonprofit groups. The request came after the Special Olympics and Masters Track and Field approached the college as a place to hold their events this year.

Neighbors said the school hasn’t done anything to meet with the community and that none of the conditions on the special-use permit have been made, including the construction of sidewalks and landscaping.

Resident John Seitz said the college hasn’t shown it can be respectful to neighbors, citing issues with noise and the lack of communication with the community.

According to representatives from the college, the site plan requires a group from the college to meet with the neighbors twice a year, once before football season starts and once after.

The site plan for the 2,500-seat stadium was approved earlier this year, but construction has not begun.

Seitz said this is the second change requested already.

Shortly after the special-use permit was approved in September, St. Augustine’s applied for an exception to the site plan restrictions, allowing a homecoming game to be played on campus.

“Let them build the stadium and then make changes from there,” said neighbor John Elsheimer.

Elsheimer said he is afraid that the college will continue to add more events that would eventually have an impact on the neighborhood.

While councilors were generally supportive of allowing nonprofits to use the stadium, most expressed concern with lack of cooperation between the school and the community and the blanket request that lacked any sort of limitation.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane said she would like to see more outreach from the college before allowing another amendment to the special-use permit.

Baldwin echoed those comments, saying she wants to see the working relationship between the college and neighborhood begin sooner. She said she is comfortable allowing the Special Olympics and the Master Track and Field events and then coming back next year after additional discussions have taken place.

Councilor John Odom said the city is putting restrictions on a college in an area that needs to be revitalized.

“We’re handcuffing a university that has been there for very many years,” he said.

Odom suggested increasing the allowable event amount to five.

Finally, in a 6 to 2 vote, councilors approved allowing the two events and reviewing the issue again after a year. Odom and Councilor Eugene Weeks voted against it.

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