Following the Belmont Planning Commission's Tuesday night to allow youth sports groups to use Notre Dame de Namur University's Koret Field, youth sports leaders say they will work with neighbors to try to keep noise to a minimum.
"I'm hoping this is the start of new cooperation with the neighbors," AYSO regional commissioner Greg Snow said in an e-mail Wednesday.
Snow said he and Tom Snider, president of the Belmont United Soccer Club, who together filed a request for access to Koret Field in April, met with several neighbors last week to discuss issues including noise.
"We are willing to work with them on things like lower decibel whistles," Snow said. "I know the neighbors are not happy with the overall CUP from 2005, but that's what is in force right now."
Snow said he and Snider would consider not using loudspeakers or bullhorns, and keeping crowds smaller as well, as ways to mitigate the noise issue.
At Tuesday night's Planning Commission meeting -- where commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of the an to the university's 2005 Conditional Use Permit that allows the Belmont United Soccer Club and Belmont/Redwood Shores AYSO to hold games at Koret Field -- a number of residents who live near the field spoke out, explaining the noise is unbearable.
"In the fall of 2003, NDNU established intramural soccer and lacrosse, and that was when our formerly peaceful neighborhood suddenly exploded with noise," Belmont resident Margaret Davis said.
"This noise is amplified because it’s in a sort of amphitheater and it travels up the hills," she added. "It is really, really noisy."
Belmont resident Richard Hughes echoed Davis' statement, saying too much noise already comes from the field.
"It’s loud enough now," Hughes said. "In the summertime, I can’t open my windows, I can’t have company over and go outside. You’re trying to enjoy peace in your backyard, I don’t get it."
But Alan Sarver, another resident who lives near the field, said he and his wife enjoy the sounds of kids playing sports, and added the noise from the field is nothing compared to traffic noise or construction noise they hear on a regular basis.
"Our house projects out over the canyon, probably as directly impacted by noise from Koret Field as any home," Sarver said. "We do hear sounds coming from Koret Field when graduation is going on and occasionally when there are large cheers from the crowd."
But, he continued, "On balance, hearing the joyful sounds of our community’s playing fields being used by our community’s children is why the people want to live in this community."
When addressing the commission, Snow and Snider explained they would likely only use the field for one or two games a weekend.
In addition, they said their two organizations amount to less than 1,500 kids.
"This field is not going to accommodate all these kids we’re talking about," Snow said. They could play "one to two games over the course of a weekend" at the field. "We’ve got 10 other fields that we play on now. We’re obviously trying to get the turfed at the same time."
Snider added that NDNU supports youth sports groups' use of the field, and that the university has nothing to gain from sharing their field with kids other than good will.
"This will serve the greater good of the Belmont community," Snider said.
Commissioner Robert Mayer also voiced support of NDNU, saying the university has been patient throughout the years-long process of seeking an amended Conditional Use Permit.
"I think that NDNU has displayed great patience and tact in this entire process," Mayer said. "I sympathize with the issue of the noise, but I have to look at the fact that 35 people constituting Belmont Citizens for a Tranquil [Community] versus the hundreds who would benefit. You can’t subject city policy to the requests of a few people."
NDNU spokesman Richard Rossi said Wednesday the university is pleased with the commission's decision to allow youth sports groups access to Koret Field.
"We’re very happy with the action taken by the planning commission last night," Rossi said. "It gives Belmont’s children a place to play that they so desperately need especially since they apparently may be losing some other sites. We only hope that the commission’s decision is allowed to stand."
He added, "We also appreciated the kind remarks made by some of the commissioners about NDNU’s willingness to allow the city’s youth the use of its field."
Mayor Coralin Feierbach said she was unable to comment on the Planning Commission's decision due to a possible conflict of interest that in the event of an appeal, the item would be brought before the Belmont City Council.